Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jane, the fox & me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault: a review

Synopsis: Hélène is teased by kids at her school. They call her fat and smelly and write mean things about her on the walls in the washroom. Hélène finds solace in books, and her current favourite is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. A compulsory school camping trip seems like it will be a locus for more heartache, but a visit from a lonely fox one night outside the tent signals the start of something new for Hélène.

My thoughts: I've always thought that the graphic novel is the perfect format for a coming-of-age story. When done right, the writing can be sparse and precise and the pictures can do some of the heavy lifting required to open the protagonist's soul to the reader. In Jane, the fox & me, Fanny Britt's sensitive story is paired exquisitely with illustrator Isabelle Arsenault's stunning colour pencil, gouache, ink and watercolour drawings. Arsenault perfectly captures both the beauty and torment of Hélène's world. When Hélène narrates the sadness of her school life the palette is soft, muted grays and black. When Hélène is reading Jane Eyre the canvas suddenly explodes into vivid, focused oranges, pinks and reds that fairly jump off the page.
Jane Eyre is the perfect story for someone like Hélène. Jane is an outcast, and so is Hélène. Jane is lonely, and so is Hélène. Each young woman desires companionship and acceptance. Ultimately, they both find what they desire: someone to talk to, someone who will bring out the best in them, and maybe even change the way they look at the world. Similarly, sometimes a story, when told right, can make you see the world in a different light too. For me, Jane, the fox & me was this type of story. I loved every panel of it.


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