Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Have you ever found a book that is just so beautiful you don't really care what it's about? Because that's how I felt the moment I saw the illustrations of Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, translated from French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou. It's great to see such a gorgeous graphic novel that not only appeals to girls, but addresses the issues that so many find they deal with during adolescence: self-esteem and physical appearance.

Helene has not had it easy at school. All of her former friends have abandoned her, and now entertain themselves by writing insults about Helene on the bathroom walls, or saying it out loud when they know she can hear. Their attacks on her appearance make Helene incredibly self-conscious, to the point she believes everything they say about her. It's a heartbreaking story seeing how a young girl can allow unkind and untrue words to alter her view of herself as well as the world around her. But Helene finds some relief in reading Jane Eyre, seeing how Jane grew up to be a beautiful intelligent woman, despite being a lonely orphan in her youth. As the bullying continues, it's not shocking to see how Helene retreats further into herself, and she begins to think that while Jane Eyre might have been lucky, it won't be true for herself.

This is a poignant story showing a different side of the person being bullied. We are introduced not to the typical victim who feels they are constantly being wronged, but one who actually believes what her tormentors say is true. Even if you cannot empathise with Helene, you may begin to realise that what you say to others really can affect how they view themselves. At least, I hope this is what young girls will take away from this story, and I think that providing it in a graphic novel format will potentially appeal to those girls who might not generally read. The illustrations provide the real sense of isolation that Helene experiences, with the sparing use of colour bringing the hope she initially lacks.

Walker Books have clearly put a lot of thought into the production of this book, getting the design spot on. Their close attention to matching the cover and the end papers to the colours of the illustrations really brings the whole book together in a spectacular presentation. (The copy I bought also had a fantastic fresh from the printer smell!) It's worth owning this title if not for the illustrations but for reminder of how much our words can mean to someone. This is a lesson that unfortunately seems to be reiterated to children and teens, but here, rather than being said it is shown through the emotion-provoking illustrations. If only there were more graphic novels as impressive and appealing to young girls as this one!
You can buy Jane, the Fox and Me directly from Walker Books on their website here.

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