When Smithereens wrote about a graphic novel called Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, I immediately requested it from the library. There were others who wanted it too so I had to wait. But the wait was worth it.
A graphic novel for younger readers, it is the story of a girl named Hélène who is being tormented by some mean girls at school. The girls leave graffiti in the bathrooms and talk and laugh about her where large groups of her classmates can hear. They say things like Hélène is fat or Hélène has BO. None of it is true but under the onslaught of meanness and due to a lack of friends, Hélène begins to believe what they say about her.
When her entire class is set to go to camp for a week, she doesn’t want to go. She can’t get out of it though. Her mother takes her shopping for a swimsuit and Hélène decides that she looks like a sausage. Once at camp she gets sorted into the “outcast” cabin with a few other girls who have no friends and lots of awkward quirks.
Throughout all of this the thing that sustains her is the book she is reading: Jane Eyre. Jane is plain but smart. Jane has troubles but she overcomes them. In spite of everything, she is loved.
One evening when she is sitting alone and depressed outside her cabin, a red fox appears and Hélène feels as though a miracle has occurred. Not long after that a new girl moves into the outcast cabin. She has been kicked out of the cabin she was in by the girls because she refused to play along with some mean thing they said or were planning. She is a breath of fresh air and charms them all. Soon Hélène finds she has a real friend and everything is transformed.
Not only is the story wonderful and real, the art is fantastic. Hélène’s world is gray pencil on white and light tan. It is dreary and sad like Hélène. But when she reads Jane Eyre, Jane’s story is in bold color, a sharp contrast between the two. When the fox appears, it is red, the only color amidst the gray. And eventually, as the book ends and Hélène escapes from the oppression of the mean girls, her world becomes colorful.
It is a simple but effective story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can imagine it might really resonate with girls in that pre-teen/tween age range who love books and feel like they don’t quite fit in with their peers. And it is pretty good for grown-ups too.