FOX AND BEAR
Written by Lauren Reese & Rebecca Rose Moody
Illustrated by Lauren Reese
Reese and Moody 5/18/2020
32 Pages Age 4—8
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Memories, Feelings, Talking
Bear is Fox’s safe someone. When Fox is old enough to go out on adventures, Bear always loves to hear about the memories Fox has made! But when something upsetting happens, Fox is afraid to share the hard memory with Bear. Is it safe to share sad and upsetting memories? Or can Fox keep them hidden from Bear?(from publisher)
“Fox loved Bear and Bear loved Fox.
Bear told great stories and gave sweet hugs.
Bear was warm and kind. Fox felt safe with Bear.
Bear was Fox’s home.”
Why I like Fox and Bear
If you read the opening lines (above), you know “Fox loved Bear and Bear loved Fox.” Bear is a great parent-figure to Fox. Bear tells great stories, listens well, and makes Fox feel loved and safe. Now, Fox is old enough to go on adventures alone. Bear gives Fox a backpack to hold all the memories, like when Fox meets Racoon, a new friend. The memory is a good, happy memory and fits right into the backpack, neat and light.
But one day Racoon upsets Fox. That memory is worrisome and heavy in the backpack. Fox tries to hide it in a closet; it is just too heavy a burden for Fox to carry around. Every bad memory goes into the closet. Left unattended, the bad memories grow larger and puts the closet in disarray. Fox is afraid to tell Bear about the bad memories, for fear Bear will be upset, especially since Fox chooses to hide the memories from Bear.
When Fox can no longer take the overwhelming worry—and the closet begins to bulge from the growing memories—Fox finally tells Bear, who is waiting patiently for Fox to be ready to talk. Bear is not upset. Bear cuddles Fox. All the bad memories flood out of Fox, who begins to feel better and less worried. The bad memories become smaller, easier to handle. Fox once more feels safe at home with Bear.
Fox and Bear is similar to Max’s Box by Brian Wray & Shiloh Penfield (Schiffer Kids; 2019; 978-0-7643-5804-3) Instead of a backpack, Max receives a box that holds all of his treasures and feelings. Bad feelings Max stuffs into the box, which grows to accommodate everything until it is too big to carry. Max needs to figure out how to reduce the box (and his burdens). Max’s Box and Fox and Bear are similar stories, but Fox and Bear seems better suited for younger, picture book reading children.
The concept is simple. Most every child is familiar with a backpack and probably owns one. They know stuff goes in a backpack, but not feelings. (That may still be too abstract a concept for the child, but he/she will accept the idea with a little explanation.) Children will understand Fox wanting to get away from the bad memories. They will also understand how a bad memory/feeling left unattended can just make you worry more and take up more of your thoughts. Like Fox, who feels less burdened and bothered by the bad memories after sharing them with Bear, so can children. Fox and Bear can help a reluctant child feel better about telling someone what they worry about, and maybe even why.
Fox and Bear is also a great story to introduce to toddlers who are angry or grumpy a lot of the time. The story might help the toddler express what bothers him/her or what he/she might be ruminating. Overwhelming thoughts can also be mitigated by a child telling a trusted one about them. It’s a bit off-course for the actual subject of Fox and Bear, but the story can help start a discussion with most every child, even older kids who think they have outgrown picture books (you are never too old for picture books). The story is non-threatening and both Fox and Bear can be anyone the child chooses. Not once in the story is there a “he” or “she” that defines the gender of Fox or Bear. Fox can be a boy or girl and Bear can be anyone the child trusts (usually mom or dad, but anyone).
Bear never questions Fox or tries to force Fox to talk. Instead, Bear waits patiently for Fox to come to Bear, ready to talk. The power is with Fox (child), as to what to share and when. The memories (feelings), belong to Fox (child), and no one else has the right to them unless Fox (child), gives someone permission. Bear does not get upset, as Fox believes will happen (the bad memory upset Fox so it makes sense that Fox would think the memory will upset Bear).
Bear’s patience; Bear’s even, relaxed tone; and when “Bear scooped Fox up and cuddled Fox close” all help Fox regain the safe feeling Fox lost. This, in turn, helps Fox feel secure enough to talk to Bear about the bad memories. Bear, by listening to Fox, when Fox is ready, helps Fox’s world return to the happy and safe “normal” it had been until Racoon upset Fox (again, with no mention of what Raccoon did, children can make the bad memory what they need it to be).
The illustrations are adorable and relatable. The artist, Lauren Reese, makes great use of white space to help convey movement and closeness. She convincingly expresses Fox and Bear’s relationship and ease with the each other in the first two spreads. This is the rock the story is built upon.
The soft images of Fox and Raccoon are sweet silhouettes and appear much like young children. Expressions relate Fox’s near giddiness upon meeting Raccoon, and if you look closely, you’ll see Raccoon with a similar golden happy memory. When afraid, Fox slumps while carrying the backpack full of bad memories. On the next page, Fox’s fear even makes Fox look heavier in the close-up. Back in Bear’s sturdy arms, Fox looks fearful but no longer looks heavy. Fox shares with Bear Fox’s burdens begin to settle.
I know this is obvious, but I so love the characters being mixed species. The story would have worked if Fox was with Mother-Fox, rather than Bear, and the new friend another fox, not a raccoon. Mixing the species, as if doing so is the most natural thing to do in the forest, can remind children (and adults) about diversity in the human race and mixing us up is the most natural thing in the world.
With Fox and Bear, all of the scenes are wonderful, so as to not play favorites there is another section I like very much: the End Pages. The pages are covered with items you would find in a forest. There are leaves, mushrooms, and flower petals in browns, oranges, and greens. Underneath a few pictures are things that might cause a bad memory including: “I stubbed my toe, the rain ruined our plans, I told a lie, (and) someone yelled at me.” Examples of good memories include: “someone shared their toy with me, I tried a new food and liked it, I watched the sunset, (and) I received a letter in the mail” (okay, this could be a bad memory for an adult). I like the first section where kids can write their name in as the owner of the book, and the sentence on the back cover: “You don’t have to keep memories hidden.”
A section of discussion questions aimed at understanding the story and personalizing it include such questions as, “When something feels upsetting, it can be scary to tell those you are close with. Why was Fox afraid to share with Bear? Have you ever felt like Fox?” and “What does Bear do to make Fox feel seen, heard, and safe?”
Illustrations Rendered in watercolor and gouache.
Available at Amazon: Fox and Bear
FOX AND BEAR. Text Copyright © 2020 by Lauren Reese and Rebecca Rose Moody. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Lauren Reese. Published by Lauren Reese and Rebecca Rose Moody.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[997-word count—review only]
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