Maybe a Fox
by Kathi Appelt and Allison McGhee
Author Interview – Appelt
Author Interview – McGhee
Related Activities & Resources:
Kathy Appelt’s website:
Kathy Appelt’s biography
SLJ interview with Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee talk with Roger
Rita Williams-Garcia interviews Kathi Appelt for the National Book Foundation
Kathi Appelt reading at the 2008 National Book Award Finalists Reading (6:22)
William Alexander interviews Kathi Appelt, 2013 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature
Kathi Appelt reads from The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, 2013 NBA Finalists Reading (4:54)
Kathi Appelt talks with Roger
Author’s Turf Interview with Newbery Honor Author Kathi Appelt
Alison McGhee’s website
Alison McGhee’s biography
Alison McGhee’s biography
SLJ interview with Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee talk with Roger
Interview with Deborah Kalb
Activities & Resources:
Reading group guide for Maybe a Fox:
Pretend you are Sylvie, Jules, or Sam. Write a journal from your character’s point of view about an event in the book. An event could include the death of the mother, Elk’s return from the war, looking for the Grotto in the woods, dealing with Sylvie’s death. Add illustrations to expand on the journal entries.
Select a scene from the book that is critical to the plot of the book. Identify the characters who are important in this scene, including a narrator. Write a readers theater or a dramatic passage exploring the scene. Select students to play the roles in the reader’s theater or dramatic passage and present the drama for the class. Give other students a chance to reflect on the scene in a follow-up discussion.
Using either pen and ink or watercolor, illustrate a scene from the book that is especially meaningful. Display the illustration in the classroom or library to stimulate students interest in the book.
Sylvie, an excellent runner, treasured her Flo-Jo t-shirt which reminded her of the Olympic track star Florence Griffith Joyner. Select a character from the book and design a t-shirt that represents something important about that character.
Following the dedication page at the front of the book, the authors include the poem, “Should the fox come again to my cabin in the snow,” by Patricia Fargnoli. Write a poem about a scene or character in the book and share the poem with students in small discussion groups.
Merriam-Webster.com defines the term symbol as, “something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance; especially : a visible sign of something invisible
What are some objects in the book that “stand for or suggests something else,” and deepen the reader’s understanding of the story and character? Working individually or with a team and using a digital tool like Prezi, Google slides, PowerPoint, or iMovie, create a presentation that explores symbols in the book and the meaning they bring to the story.
An epilogue is a brief chapter or scene that is sometimes added at the end of a book to provide a conclusion to the story. Write an epilogue to Maybe a Fox that share additional information that you think might be helpful to understanding the story. The epilogue could be in the form of a poem, a paragraph, a brief chapter, a dialogue or a graphic.
Different book jacket covers are found in different countries’ publications of the book. In a small group, debate which design is a better image for the story. Find the three designs (US, British, Japanese) at:
Maybe a Fox contains several legends that are important to the book’s plot. Write a legend that helps to explain some event in the world. Illustrate the legends and compile a class book for display in the classroom or library.
Collect a variety of rocks from the neighborhood. Using digital or print resources, identify the rocks as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary in form. Using some of the rocks, create wishing rocks from personal experience. Then build a small cairn like the ones found in the book, using the wishing rocks as the basis for the structure.
For a variety of rock projects:
Look at these sites for cool “fox” craft projects:
Explore and Learn
If accessible through your library, check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on rocks, foxes, Vermont, legends, the Afghanistan War, and robotics. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), ProQuest SIRS Discoverer and TeachingBooks.net. See the campus librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.
Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics in the book.
Foxes: facts and pictures:
Red foxes (Ranger Rick)
Fox (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Fox facts (Kidskonnect)
Cry of the Red Fox (Susquehannock Wildlife Society) (1:06) :
Foxes: animals for children (2:08)
12 interesting facts about foxes (1:26)
Rocks and the rock cycle
Interactives: Rock cycles
Rocks to collect (photographs)
Our World: the rock cycle (NASA) (4:09)
Vermont woods in winter (photos)
Vermont (information on the state)
Catamounts in Vermont
Are catamounts really extinct? (video) (2:30)
Foxes in folklore
The Fox and the Cat (Grimm’s Brother Fairy Tales) (text and audio) (1:56):
The Fox Sister: A Korean Tale
Abenaki Legends, Myths, and Stories
Abenaki Emergence Myth
War in Afghanistan
Afghanistan War (2001-2014)
Create a 3-D map of the woods next to Sylvie and Jules’ house. Include the path through the woods, The Slip, The Disappearance, the Whippoorwill River, and the Grotto. Make figures of the characters (Sylvie, Jules, Sam, Elk, Senna, Older Brother) that can move through the woods while the story is told. If available, with basic circuitry skills and tools, use LED lights to illuminate important places on the map.
Design a personal Grotto that has elements that are significant to the reader. What objects would be in this space? Where would the Grotto be located? What would the physical design of the structure look like? What clues would this Grotto give about the creator of this special space?
Create a book trailer for Maybe a Fox, using digital tools like iMovie or Animoto.
The characters in the book all have memories that play an important role in the story. As a class or individually, create a quilt with squares that represent memories that are significant to the characters. Assemble the quilt by hand or with a sewing machine, if available. Students could also create a digital scrapbook that illustrate the characters’ memories and their importance in the book. Use music to enhance the digital scrapbook presentation.
Cooking time! Create a “rock buffet” that contains edible representations of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, using the directions by Hope King, found at:
Jules kept all of her special rocks in a striped sock hidden in her closet. Design a container to hold your special papers, photos, mementoes, or collections. Given the availability of tools and materials, build and design this container for your personal use.
Big Picture Questions
Examine the cover of the book. What kind of mood does the artwork create? What prediction might you make about this book from studying the cover?
How does the poem, “Should the fox come again to my cabin in the snow” by Patricia Fargnoli set the stage for the story to come?
Rocks in various forms – cairns, wish rocks, rock collections, the Grotto – appear throughout the story. What qualities do rocks and the book’s characters have in common?
The authors blend the worlds of realistic fiction and fantasy in Maybe a Fox. A literary term for combining these two worlds is often called magical realism. What purpose do you think the fantasy elements of animal spirits and kennen serve in this very real story of loss and healing in the human world? How did you respond as a reader to the magical realism in the book?
Death is a very real presence in Jules’ world. What are the different ways that the characters deal with death? How do the characters find healing from these painful experiences? What advice would you offer to the characters who find death to be a part of their lives?
Many of the characters make an effort to honor someone who was important to them. Share some examples from the book that illustrate different ways of honoring those you love. How do you honor people who are important to you?
Foreshadowing is when the author give clues or hints about events that will happen later in the book. What examples of foreshadowing can you describe in Maybe a Fox? Were you aware of these hints at the time you were reading, or did you remember the clues after the event had occurred?
List five nouns that you think are important to the book. Why did you select these five nouns? How do they help you understand the book more clearly?
Scent is often mentioned in both the human and animal worlds. The book begins with Sylvie’s signature scent of coconut and ends with Older Brother filling his body with the scent of his sister fox. Explain some reasons that the sense of smell is plays an important role in the book.
“It’s you and me, sister” and “We got each other’s backs,” are phrases that repeat throughout the book. How does the repetition of these phrases help the reader understand the book better?
Chapter Specific Questions
Why does Jules choose Sylvie’s Flo-Jo t-shirt to use as a rock basket at the beginning of the story?
Jules is a rock hound, or a rock collector. What characteristics do you think Jules would look for in rocks she assigns to the “wish rock” category?
Jules and Sylvie are sisters who are just one year apart in age, but who are very different people. What contrasts in these characters do you discover in the first chapter of the book? How would you describe ways that you and your siblings are different?
Jules and Sylvie rush outside to build a snow family when they see the new snow falling. Why do you think the girls choose to build family figures instead of the traditional snowman?
In Chapter 2, the reader finds a list of Dad’s DO NOT rules. Read these four rules carefully. What do the rules tell you about the father who created them? What is the girls’ attitude about these rules? What DO NOT rules that are particularly important in your family?
In the first two chapters of the book, Jules seems angry at Sylvie about the death of their mother. Why do you think Jules makes Sylvie the target of her anger?
The Slip is an important location in the book. How would you describe the Slip to someone who has not read the book? What were the possible dangers of this spot in the woods?
What similarities can you find in the Legend of the River Brothers to the sisters’ story? What purpose does the legend serve to the plot of the book?
What characteristics does Jules share with her father, from the description of Chess Sherman in Chapter 4?
The missing flamingo mug was an important object for Jules. How does the mug contain Jules’ memory of her mother? Do you have an object that holds special memories of an important person or event in your life? Reflect on how you would feel if this object was lost or destroyed.
Super Friend Sam had a burning wish to see a catamount, a legendary wild cat that was supposedly extinct in Vermont. Why was seeing this animal important to Sam?
Sam has a great deal of faith in wish rocks. What has led him to believe in their power to grant his burning wish?
Mrs. Harless, the children’s neighbor, calls the sisters and Sam “woodland creatures.” What does this phrase, comparing them to animals in the forest, tell you about these three characters?
Sam feels “as if a different version of his brother had come back from the war.” How has his personality and behavior changed? Why is his brother Elk a changed person from the young man who first went off to fight in the Afghanistan War?
“Everyone knew that a fox meant luck” is a statement at the end of Chapter 5. What other superstitions can you find in the story. Are these superstitions based in fact or fiction?
In the book, the Grotto is a hidden cave in the woods, filled with all kinds of rocks that had been placed there from all over the world. As far as Jules knows, the Grotto is a myth. Why would Elk ask her to put the two agates (stones) in the Grotto, if no one is sure it even existed? Why would Jules agree to honor Elk’s request, if she has never seen the Grotto?
The woods that had brought so much happiness and adventure to Jules becomes a place of death at the end of Part One of the book. What clues does Jules discover that lead her to realize that Sylvie is gone? How would you have reacted if you had made a similar discovery about someone you loved? How does Jules blame herself for Sylvie’s death? What is the father’s reaction when she tells him that Sylvie’s death is her fault?
At the beginning of Part Two, elements of fantasy are introduced into a story that has up until this point been a realistic tale. What are some examples of fantasy in Chapter 8? How does this change the mood of the book?
Before her kit is born, the mother fox understands that her little girl fox is kennen. How would you explain the idea of kennen in the story?
Sometimes little Senna sees bars of gray and forest green in the air. When do these bars often appear? What do you think these bars represent?
Why do you think that Zeke, Elk, Sam, Sylvie, and Jules wanted to find the Grotto? What did the Grotto represent to these characters? Do you have a special place that is important to you? What does this place represent for you?
The foxes become characters in the story, each with their own personality. How would you describe Older Brother? Mother Fox? Senna? Younger Brother?
How do Jules and her father cope with Sylvie’s death in the weeks following the accident? How does Elk cope with his friend Zeke’s death? Do any of these behaviors have anything in common?
When Jules is talking to Elk on the porch, she becomes aware that the woods seem to be reaching out for her. Why do you think that Jules experiences this pull towards the woods? What is the importance of Elk’s presence with her on the porch when she feels this burning wish to find the Grotto?
In Chapter 15, the foxes’ and Jules’ stories begin to weave together. How does Senna’s kennen nature connect with Jules? How do you react when a friend or family member is sad and hurting?
What does the invisible line between the hour and the woods represent in Jules and her father’s relationship in the After Sylvie time?
What qualities of a good friend and brother do you recognize in Sam? What affect does Sam’s friendship have on Jules after Sylvie’s death? If Sam and Jules are friends, why would she lash out at Super Friend Sam about his burning wishes coming true?
Both Jules’ father and the fox parents warn against the same part of the woods when the river disappears into an underground cave and reemerges on the other side. Compare the two names for this area — the Slip (human name) and the Disappearance/ (fox name). How are the two names alike? How are they different?
In Chapter 17 Senna makes many discoveries about Jules, when she finds her standing by the woods, upset and angry. Senna senses that she and Jules are linked. What are some of the connections she feels towards this girl? What connections does the reader begin to make about Senna’s importance to the story?
Jules and her father talk about the rituals that they share together – old and new ones. Why do Jules and her father find ritual to be important? What are some of the rituals that your family celebrates? Why are these rituals important in your family?
How does Sam help Jules get through the first day back to school after Sylvie’s death? Have you ever helped a friend or family member get through a tough time? What did you do to ease their way?
Senna reveals to the reader that the catamount is kennen like she is and that the catamount is linked to Elk as she is linked to Jules. Whose spirit do you this the catamount represents in the story? What clues lead you to think those two characters are connected?
Do you think that Liz Redding was being mean on purpose when she asked if they had found Sylvie’s body, or was she just clueless to Jules’ discomfort? What clues in the text supports your position?
What does Sam’s obsession with the catamount and his love for the wild animals in the woods reveal about his character?
At the beginning of Part Three, Senna discovers the headband that Sylvie was wearing the day of the accident and takes it to the Grotto. There the Someone for whom she has been searching appears and announces, Danger, Senna You will need to run fast, as fast as you can. What is the significance of this encounter in the Grotto?
What leads Jules to the decision to disobey her father and cross the invisible line that seems to glow? Can you find evidence of Jules respecting her father in this act, even though she is disobeying his “do not cross” rule?
What was the significance of the 21-gun salute that Elk performs for Zeke in the woods? How is does this act that disturbs Jules so much serve as an type of healing for Elk? Explain how the same behavior can be both hurtful and helpful.
When Senna gives the headband to Jules, the girl is both delighted and saddened. Explain how a strip of cloth could create such strong emotion for this character.
When Elk takes Sam into the woods to see the catamount paw print, he recalls his grandmother’s stories about spirit animals who knew things that were beyond a human’s ken. What does the word ken mean? How is this word connected to Senna?
When her father gives Jules the special serpentine rock, he calls his daughter his “strong-as-a-rock girl.” What are several reasons that this is a very appropriate nickname for Jules?
When Jules asks her father if he had ever had a burning wish, he replies that he had two that involved loving Jules’ mother and having children. Jules protests that both her mother and Sylvie are gone, but her father says, “Doesn’t matter, Jules. What matters is that I had two burning wishes, and they both came true. And that makes me a lucky, lucky man.” Do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer as if you were trying to convince someone who disagree with your opinion.
At the end of Chapter 33, Senna senses the bear, the hunter, and Jules all at once. What kind of mood does this passage create? What emotions might the passage create for the reader?
Jules’ burning wish is granted when she discovers the Grotto with Senna’s help. What revelations does she receive as a result of this discovery? What role does memory play in these discoveries? Can you describe a place that is important to you that is also full of memories?
After discovering Sylvie’s collection of wish rocks with their repeated messages of safety for the people she loves, she realizes that she is finally able to complete the end of Sylvie’s sentence, “to run fast, so that….” What is the end of the sentence? What leads Jules to finally understand her sister’s desire to run faster?
Jules breaks two DO NOT rules when she crosses the invisible line and decides to go to the Slip to make her newest burning wish – that Sylvie knows how much I love her. What were the positive and negatives consequences of Jules’ decision to ignore the rules? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?
Through most of the book, the authors write about the human and the animal worlds in separate chapters. However, in Chapter 38 the human and animal worlds collide. What is the result of these two worlds coming together at the end of the chapter? How do the authors build a sense of danger?
Chapter 39 is full of revelations. Were you surprised by the events in this chapter, or had you predicted a similar outcome? Thinking about the previous chapters in the book, what clues can you find that predicted the climatic fall and discoveries in this important chapter?
Jules’ story ends as it began, with her sorting rocks on her bed. What has she learned about her world since we first met this rock hound on the morning of a new snowfall?
What might be a reason that the authors chose to end the book in the animal world, with Older Brother mourning the loss of his sister?
Book Talk Teasers:
View the book trailer for Maybe a Fox, found on the Texas Bluebonnet Award YouTube channel. What elements in the book trailer encourage a student to read the book?
Present the readers theater. At the conclusion of the presentation, ask the students what they think will happen next in the story.
Pass wish rocks with a variety of burning wishes written on them for students to read and examine. Give students a chance to share what their burning wish might be. Encourage students to read Maybe a Fox to see how wish rocks and burning wishes are an important part of the plot of the book.
Fantasy fiction and death/grief/loss:
Bozarth, Jan. Kerka’s book. On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Kerka returns to the magical land of Aventurine, where she is sent on a seemingly impossible mission that she hopes will bring back the closeness she had with her sisters before their mother’s death. (NoveList)
Cougin, Linda. The dog, Ray. Daisy was involved in a car crash and is now in some kind of heavenly waiting room. But even heaven makes mistakes sometimes and Daisy accidentally gets a new life – as a dog! (NoveList)
Foxlee, Karen. Orphelia and the marvelous boy. Ophelia, a timid eleven-year-old girl grieving her mother, suspends her disbelief in things non-scientific when a boy locked in the museum where her father is working asks her to help him complete an age-old mission. (NoveList)
Going, K. L. The Garden of Eve. Eve gave up her belief in stories and magic after her mother’s death, but a mysterious seed given her as an eleventh-birthday gift by someone she has never met takes her and a boy who claims to be a ghost on a strange journey, to where their supposedly cursed town of Beaumont, New York, flourishes. (NoveList)
Nicholls, Sally. Season of secrets. Sent by their father to live in the country with their grandparents after the sudden death of their mother, Molly’s older sister Hannah expresses her grief in a raging rebellion while imaginative Molly finds herself increasingly distracted by visions, that seemingly only she can see, of a strange hunt in the nearby forest. (NoveList))
Scrimger, Richard. Downside up. Fred is a sixth-grader grieving over the loss of Casey, his beloved dog. Every day he walks home from school bouncing Casey’s old worn-out ball. One day, the ball falls down a grate. When Fred tries to retrieve it he enters a parallel world: Casey is alive, his mom, sister, and there’s a version of Fred too. Spending time with Casey, Fred feels happy for the first time since his dog’s death, but he slowly realizes that the loss of Casey is masking an even greater loss: the death of his dad. Fred brings his sister, Izzy, to this upside-down world of lost things in the hope of finding their father and bringing him back. Can everything that is lost be found again? (NoveList)
Fiction and human/animal relationship:
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Paint the wind. After her overprotective grandmother has a stroke, Maya, an orphan, leaves her extremely restricted life in California to stay with her mother’s family on a remote Wyoming ranch, where she discovers a love of horses and encounters a wild mare that her mother once rode. (NoveList)
Spirit animals (series). Discovering when they come of age that they share a bond with special spirit animals who wield great powers, four children become lone protectors of their world against a dark force that threatens to destroy everyone they love. (NoveList)
White, E. B. Charlotte’s web: The story of Wilbur, the pig, smallest of the litter, who is raised by the farmer’s daughter, and who finds a friend in Charlotte, the spider. (NoveList)
Multiple perspectives and grief/loss/death:
Frost, Helen. Applesauce weather. Preparing for her family’s annual tradition of picking apples, making applesauce, and listening to her Uncle Arthur tell his tall tales, young Faith comforts her uncle, who has lost his zest for stories in the aftermath of losing his wife. (NoveList)
Hicks, Betty. Out of order. Four youngsters, ages nine to fifteen, narrate one side of the story of their newly blended family’s adjustment, interwoven with grief and loss. (NoveList)
Martin, Ann M. Everything for a dog. In parallel stories, Bone, an orphaned dog, finds and loses a series of homes, Molly, a family pet, helps Charlie through the grief and other after-effects of his brother’s death, and lonely Henry pleads for a dog of his own. (NoveList)
Fiction, sisters/brothers, and death/loss/grief:
Bishop, Jenn. The distance to home. Baseball player and superfan Quinnen must struggle to deal with her older sister’s death in a story that unfolds between two summers. (NoveList)
Carey, Janet Lee. Wenny has wings. Having had a near-death experience in the accident that killed his younger sister, eleven-year-old Will tries to cope with the situation by writing her letters. (NoveList)
Farrant, Natasha. After Iris. Twelve-year-old Bluebell Gadsby’s written and video diary chronicles life in a rowdy London family, and how Zoran, the new au pair, and Joss, the troublemaking boy next door, help to pull her out of her shell and cope with the loss of her twin three years before. (NoveList)
Roberts, Willo Davis. The one left behind. Mandy’s life changes forever when her ten-year-old twin sister eats a hamburger tainted with E coli and dies. (NoveList)
Fiction, mothers, and death/loss/grief:
Arno, Ronni. Dear Poppy. When Poppy moves to the family farm to escape memories of her late mother, she uncovers a stack of letters from 1985 addressed to herself written by her mother, and Poppy believes she has finally discovered the best friend she has been looking for. (NoveList)
Brooke, Lauren. Coming home. Amy’s mother founded Heartland, a place for healing traumatized horses, but Amy, who inherited her mother’s skills with horses, must continue her work after an accident on a stormy night kills her mother. (NoveList)
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Chicken boy. Since the death of his mother, Tobin’s family life and school life have been in disarray, but after he starts raising chickens with his seventh-grade classmate, Henry, everything starts to fall into place. (NoveList)
Holczer, Tracy. The secret hum of a daisy. After 12-year-old Grace’s mother’s sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she’s never met. Then she discovers clues in a mysterious treasure hunt–one that will help her find her true home. (NovelList)
Lean, Sarah. A dog called Homeless. Fifth-grader Cally Louise Fisher stops talking, partly because her father and brother never speak of her mother who died a year earlier, but visions of her mother, friendships with a homeless man and a disabled boy, and a huge dog ensure that she still communicates. (NoveList)
Nuzrum, K. A. The leanin’ dog. In wintry Colorado during the 1930s, eleven-year-old Dessa Dean mourns the death of her beloved mother, but the arrival of an injured dog and the friendship they form is just what they need to change their lives forever. (NoveList)
Spinelli, Jerry. Eggs. Mourning the loss of his mother, nine-year-old David forms an unlikely friendship with independent, quirky thirteen-year-old Primrose, as the two help each other deal with what is missing in their lives. (NoveList)
Fiction and foxes:
Britt, Fanny. Jane, the fox and me. Hélène is an outcast in her grade. Her only consolation is reading Jane Eyre. Even seeing a lovely fox doesn’t make her feel better, but maybe a new friendship will. (NoveList)
Carmody, Isobelle. A fox called Sorrow. On a dangerous quest to the troll city of Underth, the healer, Little Fur, is mystified by a new companion–a scarred and angry fox whose strong spirit keeps him alive despite his wish to die. (NoveList)
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. The second life of Abigail Walker. Bullied by two mean girls in her sixth-grade class, a lonely, plump girl gains self-confidence and makes new friends after a mysterious fox gently bites her. (NoveList)
Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. When his father enlists in the military and makes him return his beloved pet fox to the wild, Peter, who has been sent to live with his grandfather hundreds of miles away, embarks on a journey filled with astonishing discoveries in order to be reunited with his fox. (NoveList)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, 02/01/16
Appelt, Kathi. Maybe a Fox; by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. Dlouhy/Atheneum, 2016 [272p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-8242-5 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-8244-9 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-6
Eleven-year-old Jules and her older sister, Sylvie, know that the Slip, the dangerous place where the river near their house flows into a deep cavern, has been declared off limits by their father; the warning, however, has often gone unheeded as the two girls go there to throw “wish” stones. One morning Sylvie leaves Jules behind and runs to the Slip to make a quick wish, and she doesn’t return. Jules’ time is then separated into Before Sylvie and After Sylvie as she grieves for her sister and tries to hold off the guilt she feels about Sylvie’s death. As Jules wanders, lost, through her days, she often catches sight of a red fox that she feels a connection to; in fact, the fox is a Kennen, a spirit meant to help humans. The book keenly conveys Jules’ pain at the loss of Sylvie and realistically complements it with absolute fury at her sister’s actions. The chapters that focus on the fox are warmly narrated, and the fox itself is gently curious and then genuinely empathetic toward Jules. A subplot involving the return of the older brother of Jules best friend from Afghanistan shows that grief manifests in many ways, a message that is underlined by the howl of the fox’s family after she sacrifices herself for Jules. This is a quiet exploration of what it is to continue life after the death of a loved one. KQG. (February 2016). Used with the permission of Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books.
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. Intermediate, Middle School Dlouhy/Atheneum 261 pp. 3/16 978-1-4424-8242-5 $16.99 ge-book ed. 978-1-4424-8244-9 $10.99
Eleven-year-old Jules, a budding geologist, and her twelve-year-old sister Sylvie, the fastest kid in school, live with their father in rural Vermont. Because the girls’ mother died when Jules was small, her memories, frustratingly, are dim. She does remember the awful sight of their mother collapsing onto the kitchen floor, and then six-year-old Sylvie sprinting as fast as she could to get help, but it was too late. And now Sylvie is the one who has disappeared: one morning before school she takes off running in the woods and never comes back; they think she tripped into the river and was swept away. At the same time, a fox kit, Senna, is born, with the instinctual desire to watch over and protect Jules. Because foxes are considered good luck, Jules’s occasional glimpses of Senna bring her some peace. A catamount, too, is rumored to be in the woods, along with a bear, and at book’s climax, the human, animal, and (most affectingly) spirit worlds collide and converge. This is a remarkably sad story that offers up measures of comfort through nature, family, community, and the interconnectedness among them. The sisters’ best friend, Sam, who is himself grieving for Sylvie and desperately longs to see that catamount, is happy to have his brother Elk home from Afghanistan, but Elk’s own best friend Zeke didn’t return, leaving Elk bereft; he and Jules mourn their losses in the woods. Zeke’s grandmother is the one to whom Sylvie ran when their mother collapsed and who now brings soup for Jules, and for her kind, stoic, heartbroken father. A good cry can be cathartic, and this book about nourishing one’s soul during times of great sadness does the trick. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ. From the January/February 2016 Horn Book Magazine.
Reprinted fromThe Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,www.hbook.com
School Library Journal
STARRED. APPELT, Kathi & Alison McGhee. Maybe a Fox. 272p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442482425.
Gr 4-6 –Twelve-year-old Sylvie, the older of the two Sherman sisters, is the runner, the fast, impetuous one. A year younger, Jules is a rock collector who takes her time to think things through. The morning of the last snowfall of the season in rural Vermont, Jules and Sylvie build a miniature snow family before getting ready for school. Sylvie wants to be fast, “so fast that…” but she never finishes that sentence, and Jules isn’t sure why her sister is so focused on speed. After playing in the snow, Sylvie darts off into the woods to throw a wishing rock into the Slip—and that’s the last time anyone sees her. At that moment, a fox kit is born. One of a litter of three, this kit is a “kennen,” a being that has an understanding that others do not possess and a destiny that it cannot escape. It’s tied to Jules and to Sylvie. Although Sylvie’s body is not found, everyone knows she drowned in the river and is gone. Jules thinks of it as “the After Sylvie” time, and she and her father grieve together, struggling to cobble together some hope for the future. There are some heavy elements in this beautifully written middle grade novel: the death of Sylvie and Jules’s mother several years before the story begins, the devastating disappearance/death of Sylvie, and the grieving of a neighbor who was deployed with his best friend to Afghanistan. But despite these sad events, the descriptions of rural Vermont, the sense of caring within Jules’s community, and the relationship between the two girls and their father make for a book that is both raw and hopeful and one that readers won’t soon forget. Through a dual narrative—one from Jules, the other from the “kennen” fox kit—the authors convey an understanding that grief is a journey and that a person can, even after terrible loss, feel the warm sun, smile once again, and make wishes for the future. VERDICT Highly recommended for all middle grade collections.–Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC. Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal, Copyright 2016.