Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Jane, the Fox & Me
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Ages: 12 years and older (approximately grade 5 and up)
Helene is a quiet, shy girl. Her former friends at school taunt her with insults, saying, “Helene weighs 216” despite her ordinary build and average appearance. Loneliness colors her world and fills it with bleak grays and muted tones of beige. Her only refuge is escaping into her beloved novel, Jane Eyre. Helene is inspired by brave Jane who, despite being orphaned and sent away to a harsh boarding school, still manages to grow up “clever, slender and wise.” The bullying at school is constant and Helene endures it until a surprise school camping trip is announced. This trip will involve swimming and Helene is dreading being in a bathing suit in front of her classmates. Her mother takes her shopping but all Helene can see is a giant sausage stuffed in decorative casing. During the trip, Helene takes her place in the “outcasts” tent and continues her strategy of social isolation. All is going according to plan until Geraldine bursts into the outcasts tent and offers warmth and friendship to Helene. Geraldine’s genuine companionship gives Helene newfound confidence. She realizes that the less she listens to the bullying, the less true the bully's words become.
This graphic novel takes on the issue of body insecurity and bullying in a way that is realistic and not overly saccharine. As the insults escalate, Helene retreats further into the world of Jane Eyre while still maintaining a droll and wry sense of humor. The gray-scale illustrations (by award-winning artist, Arsenault) convey Helene’s sadness and seclusion while depicting Jane’s story in striking reds and vivid browns. The progression of Helene’s confidence and self-assurance are shown through the growing use of bright, spring colors like green and blue. The beautiful illustrations work together with the honest and hopeful text to weave a redemptive story about the power of making connections. While this is an important message for everyone, it is recommended for readers grades five and up.
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