Volume 21 Number 5
Fox Song is a sensitive story about a young native girl coming to terms with the death of her great-grandmother. The hours that the two spent together have resulted in a potpourri of memories for the child, and these memories forge the link between past and present, between death and life.
The book is exquisitely illustrated by Paul Morin, an award-winning Canadian artist well known for his illustrations in both The Orphan Boy and The Dragon's Pearl. The stunningly detailed and colourful paintings in this book, one on every page, capture the spirit of the story. The special bond between the child and her great-grandmother is evident in their happy faces as the old woman passes on her wisdom to the girl.
"Grama Bowman," an Abenaki, is more than ninety years old and has lived with Jamie and her parents for six years, most of Jamie's life. The two discuss native beliefs and ways of living as they gather berries together, make birch-bark baskets, and tramp through the snow studying animal tracks.
The fox is Grama's favourite animal and she tells Jamie that someday, when she is gone, Jamie may see a fox and think of her. Near the end of her life, Grama teaches Jamie a welcoming song of the Abenaki people and explains that when she sings it, she will not be alone. For Jamie, this song becomes the "fox song," and when she sings it at the end of the story as she thinks of her great grandmother, a fox steps into the meadow and pauses to listen. A gentle connection between death and life is made.
In a note about the story, author Joseph Bruchac explains that it is based on several events in his life as well as traditions among the Abenaki people. He has also written Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back (Philomel Books, 1992) and Turtle Meat and Other Stories (Holy Cow! Press, 1992).
Although Fox Song is aimed at children ages six to ten, its striking illustrations and gentle story will be appreciated by children and adults alike.
Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario.
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