The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear by Margrete Lamond and illustrated by Heather Vallance (Dirt Lane Press)
This large-format hardcover book of generous design, with its restrained but eloquent charcoal and pencil illustrations, cries out to be picked up. Then the reader — or listener to this excellent read aloud — will enter the world of Fox and Bear through five lively episodes. Some may seem familiar, as they are retellings of Norwegian folktales. There is originality in making Bear the narrator, as he addresses the trickster who is his friend and rival, and also the jeering bystanders, Rooster and Hare. Rich language, humour and pathos add to the classic feel of the book.
Most valuable of all is the way that readers are alerted to the nuances of relationships, to observe how ‘the string of friendship’ is stretched and snaps and may be mended again. Much is left to contemplation, and perhaps discussion, including the ending: ‘And I can tell, by the way you’re laughing like a yawn, that you know what happens next … don’t you, Fox?’