CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 4 . . . . October 13, 2006
In 1992, Barbara Reid told the story of Noah’s Ark in her book, Two By Two. She returns to the fountain of inspiration that is the story of the Great Flood for her latest book for young children, Fox Walked Alone. Fox notices numerous pairs of birds and animals on the move. Despite his solitary nature, Fox’s curiosity is undeniable, and so he joins the throng pushing toward what is, for Fox, an unknown destination. Eventually, “over a hill [and] around a bend,” at last Fox can see the journey’s end. A great big Ark awaits the assorted creatures of the world. To his surprise and, no doubt, joy, when Fox reaches the Ark, he finds that a vixen awaits him. Bounding over the top of a couple of hefty hippopotamuses, the joyful foxes race one another to the Ark’s door.
The rhyming text for this story is simple, and the rhyme seems occasionally a touch forced. Nothing, however, can detract from the quality of the illustrations. Using her trademark 3-dimensional Plasticine style, Reid again delivers a visual feast of colour and flair. I can’t help but stare at each illustration, and, as I do so, I find myself shaking my head in wonder and asking, “How does she do that?” If Reid were to invite me to contribute to her next Noah’s Ark tale, my own Plasticine construction would be limited to those old staples—snakes and worms! Reid is a master, and one could argue that this is her most impressive effort yet. The texture in Fox’s coat is impressive, as it also is in the coats of the wolves, but the texture on the page 6 illustration of the bears is nothing short of incredible.
I loved sharing this book with my own two young children. My six-year-old daughter is an especially big Barbara Reid fan. Both my daughters love the new book, and all three of us chose different illustrations as our own personal favourite. I think that the fact that we all preferred a different illustration reflects how the superb quality of the artwork is maintained from front cover to back and includes everything in between. My favourite illustration is the double page spread on page 12 and 13. The Ravens have a photographic realism about them—but they are made out of Plasticine! How does she do it?!?
Another of my preferred illustrations is the page where all the travelling birds and animals cuddle up for a night of rest from their journey. The koalas snuggle up to the tree-like legs of a giraffe. Birds roost on the antlers of antelope and deer. Moles slumber within the coils of a pair of snakes. I notice also that the porcupines, so as not to prickle a neighbour, are curled up between the armour-plated aardvarks and the tough-skinned crocodiles—further evidence of Reid’s close attention to detail. It is crowded and tight, and creatures are sleeping everywhere. The text that accompanies this illustration contains the strongest piece for the book—a delightful play on words—when a kangaroo calls out to Fox, “Leopard saved a spot for you!” Brilliant.
How does she do it?!? Quite simply, Barbara Reid is a unique and superb talent. This book shows that she is at the height of her genius.
Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches literacy education and children’s literature classes.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.