BRITT, Fanny (text) Isabelle Arsenault (illus.) Christelle Morelli & Susan Ouriou (trans) Jane, the Fox and Me Walker, 2014 101pp $24.95 ISBN 9781406353044 SCIS 1627533
This unusual and moving graphic novel was first published in French in Canada in 2012, then translated into English for the USA, Canada and the UK. It honestly portrays how cruel some children can be to others, how hurtful this bullying and ostracism can be and how one young girl, Helene, copes and then dares to hope.
The opening sentence, ‘There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today’, sets the tone of loneliness and despair, accompanied by monochrome panels revealing the school environment with its cliques of students, including previous friends, sniggering and talking behind Hélène’s back and the taunting graffiti making comments about her weight and personal hygiene. However Hélène has discovered the sanctuary of a good book. She is engrossed in reading Jane Eyre, identifying with the trials of its heroine. The panels illustrating scenes from the classic novel in contrast are drawn in full colour.
The self-conscious concerns about the upcoming school camp weigh on her mind (buying a new swimming costume, for example) and she finds herself grouped with two other girls, who also display various coping mechanisms, in the ‘Outcasts’ Tent’. But the approach of a wild fox and the connection with a new girl called Geraldine, who has been kicked out of her tent into Hélène’s, changes her mindset to one of hope and by the end of the book (and Jane Eyre) her world is full of colour.
As a depiction of bullying and the way girls can be especially bitchy to each other, this graphic novel is very moving. It would be a valuable book for upper primary or lower secondary students. There are many themes running through it, such as the psychological effect of the teasing, and combined with its unusual graphic style, use of colour and relevant subject matter, this book is highly recommended both for personal reading pleasure and its educational value. LB