Review of The Fox and the Forest Fire

The Fox and the Forest Fire
by Danny Popovici; illus. by the author
Primary    Chronicle    40 pp.    g
8/21    978-1-7972-0282-2    $17.99

The book’s young narrator, sporting a red beanie, has just moved to the country with his mother and is not thrilled about it. “Nights are too quiet,” he complains. “Mornings are too loud.” Soon, however, he becomes comfortable in the woods, and notices a red fox that lives nearby. When a forest fire erupts, the boy and his mother evacuate; on a dramatic wordless spread, the fox, along with the other animal denizens of the forest, makes its own escape. Time passes before any of them can return. The child’s description of his post-fire home accompanies an illustration of blackened tree trunks with small shoots of green emerging from the forest floor: “While things don’t look like they did before, the forest knows what to do after a fire.” The final page-turn reveals the mother planting a sapling while the child carries wood to frame their new house, noting “and so do we.” Despite the serious and timely topic (with wildfires becoming increasingly common and more severe in the American West due to climate change), Popovici’s lean text and gentle cartoon-style paintings keep the tone suitable for young readers. The child, fox, and fire are visually connected by the color red (also used very effectively on the textured endpapers) so the fire becomes part of the forest rather than a terrifying interloper. Adults may question why the family rebuilds on the same site, using traditional wood construction, but the child audience will understand that families, both human and fox, can thrive after tragedy. An appended author’s note and “More About Wildfires” page provide more detail.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Maeve Visser Knoth

Maeve Visser Knoth is a librarian at Phillips Brooks School, Menlo Park, ­California. She has chaired the Notable Children’s Books Committee and taught at Notre Dame de Namur University and Lesley University.

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