CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 12. . . November 24, 2017
Barnaby is a lonely fisherman. He sets off to sea each day only to return each evening to a sad and empty home and then repeats the routine the next day. One day is different though. Barnaby notices tiny animal tracks near his home and befriends the shy fox to whom the tracks belong. Barnaby gains his trust by bringing fox fish from his catch and begins to look forward to sitting with fox on his porch each night. When fox suddenly disappears, Barnaby, missing his new companion, becomes sad and lonely once again. He looks for fox but fears he will never again experience friendship. Luckily, Barnaby’s fears are unfounded as fox eventually returns with her two new kits, and Barnaby counts himself blessed to now have three friends.
The Fox and the Fisherman is the English translation of Quebec author-illustrator Marianne Dumas’ first book, Le Pêcheur et le Renard, which was nominated for le Prix Peuplier 2017 and the Sélection Communication-jeunesse 2016-20. This story of a lonely fisherman is a gentle, poignant tale told in the third person. Before fox’s appearance, the repetition of the phrase “as always” reinforces the fisherman’s daily routines and lonely life of solitude. When fox appears, the narrative gains speed and interest as the fisherman finds new excitement in life and experiences the joys of friendship. When fox then disappears, readers feel the fisherman’s grief but eventually emotions rise again as fox returns with her two new kits.
Dumas’s delightful watercolor illustrations echo the seaside setting of this lovely tale and are each works of art in and of themselves. The cool grey tones in the first pages mirror the fisherman’s cold, damp home. When fox and fisherman find each other, Dumas’s paintings come alive with the rust, sky blue and green tones of the seaside. This touching narrative is reminiscent of a traditional maritime folk tale, and The Fox and the Fisherman could easily become a classic. Dumas explores friendship, loss, new life and aging in this gentle and simple story that would be at home in an elementary classroom, school library, or simply as a much loved “read it again” bedtime story.
Cate Carlyle is a former elementary teacher currently residing in Halifax, NS, the land of fishermen and foxes. Cate is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.
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