A New York Times Best Illustrated Book
Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies - Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane's tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship.
Leaving the outcasts' tent one night, Hélène encounters a fox, a beautiful creature with whom she shares a moment of connection. But when Suzanne Lipsky frightens the fox away, insisting that it must be rabid, Hélène's despair becomes even more pronounced: now she believes that only a diseased and dangerous creature would ever voluntarily approach her. But then a new girl joins the outcasts' circle, Géraldine, who does not even appear to notice that she is in danger of becoming an outcast herself. And before long Hélène realizes that the less time she spends worrying about what the other girls say is wrong with her, the more able she is to believe that there is nothing wrong at all.
This emotionally honest and visually stunning graphic novel reveals the casual brutality of which children are capable, but also assures readers that redemption can be found through connecting with another, whether the other is a friend, a fictional character or even, amazingly, a fox.
Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator who has won an impressive number of awards and has achieved international recognition. She has illustrated Migrant by Maxine Trottier, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, winner of the Governor General’s Award; Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin by Marie-Danielle Croteau, winner of the Governor General’s Award; and My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She has also illustrated Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, forthcoming from Groundwood. Isabelle has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives with her family in Montreal.
Fanny Britt is a Quebec playwright, author and translator. She has written a dozen plays (among them Honey Pie, Hôtel Pacifique and Bienveillance) and translated more than fifteen. She has also written and translated several other works of literature. Jane, the Fox and Me is her first graphic novel.
Helen Mixter is a translator who lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Sometimes there is no logical explanation for child cruelty. We’re lucky if we have a Jane Eyre to turn to, even as we try to find new friends and confidants. For some children out there, Jane, the Fox & Me is going to be their own Jane Eyre. Helene will shoulder their blows and offer hope for coming out strong at the end. Could a book of this sort hope for anything better? A rare piece.
A sensitive and possibly reassuring take on a psychological vulnerability that is all too common and not easily defended.
More than a few readers will recognize themselves in Hélène and find comfort.