You may not have noticed, but I’ve been writing a dissertation in between posts. That’s been fun (no, really, it is!), but it does mean I’m not actually doing this full time, and that means that I miss out on writing about a lot of books I love. Books I love deeply.
Well. Remember This Is Not a Picture Book!, by Sergio Ruzzier? Remember how much I loved it? (I’ve given it as a gift more than a few times.) Well, Sergio Ruzzier, to my great delight, wrote another book last year, Fox & Chick: The Party + Other Stories. (I never know whether those & and + are right, but let’s say they are!) I bought it and loved it and so does my Changeling. I never got around to writing it up here. It did rather well, to my delight, and was a Theodore Seuss Geisl Award Honoree (I may have squealed with joy over that). And then, a few weeks ago, Fox & Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride + Other Stories came out! I just got my copy today from my local Children’s Book Shop, and now I happen to have a crack of an instant to write here and I’m determined not to let the chance to sing the praises of these two delightful books pass me by.
We all know and love odd literary couples: Frog and Toad, Ant and Bee, Charlie and Mouse… well, if you love that kind of dynamic, you will adore Fox and Chick.
Tonight I read one of the Fox & Chick stories (“Chocolate Cake”) with the Changeling before bed. (She was as excited for new Fox and Chick stories as I was! She’s about five and a half, and the perfect age for these books, I think.) I asked her which of the two characters she preferred. She hemmed and hawed for a long while, mulling over the tricky question. “Fox,” she finally said, “because he’s a little bit more sensitive and always knows the right thing to say.” I see her point and was impressed by her reasoning, but I will tell you that that’s not the right answer. It wasn’t a question I was asking to find out anything about the characters, both of whom are lovable by any right-minded person; I asked the question to find out more about my daughter, and I wasn’t surprised by her answer.
Fox is decidedly sensitive, smart, and clear-thinking. He always sees reality, and sees the road straight before him. Chick is flightier, more imaginative, and more prone to fits of emotions of all kinds. He sees Anne Shirley’s “bends in the road.” Fox thinks twice and speaks once, Chick speaks before he thinks at all.
Each collection contains three stories, and they are all equally imaginative, original, and fresh. Despite the age-old technique of bringing together two opposing figures and hoping something fun comes of it (Aesop’s Fables, anyone?), the trick has not gotten old, and Sergio Ruzzier’s characters run into adventure after adventure (in Chick’s view) without ever getting boring (in our view!).
I was going to choose one story to talk about to give you a sample of what I’m talking about, but I quickly realized that would give the wrong impression, that the stories all follow a similar pattern. They don’t. In some, Chick might get up to mischief (“The Party,” in which Chick asks Fox if he can use the bathroom… but doesn’t tell Fox exactly what that request entails!), but in others, there’s peace and beauty (“The Sunrise,” in which the two friends might miss the sunrise but find beauty elsewhere) while in others there are moments of true, shared friendship (“Chocolate Cake” teaches us the joy in giving, receiving, and sharing). Nor are these divisions more than arbitrary; many share these elements and more.
I will tell you the plain truth: I’ve missed writing about every book that comes my way and delights me, but I haven’t felt too guilty about it, because a) this is a blog, not my profession, so I can’t possibly review everything– I’m not The Horn Book!; b) I’ve been busy, as mentioned above, with a little thing called my dissertation, not to mention my family; c) I write here for pleasure, and if I felt guilty that would detract from my pleasure, now, wouldn’t it?
I felt guilty when The Quiet Boat Ride came out and I realized I’d never reviewed The Party.
Why, I wondered? And I realized: it wasn’t that I felt like I’d let down Sergio Ruzzier– I like him very much, but I doubt he’s waiting on my thoughts! I felt like I’d let down Fox and Chick. They’d become my friends, much like Frog and Toad are my friends. Frog and Toad taught me the values of persistence, friendship, and hard work today so you can relax tomorrow. I wonder very much what Fox and Chick will teach the young readers of tomorrow? I know they’ve taught me to sit still for portraits, look for pirates in ponds, and always share my chocolate cake.