Friday 6 April 2018

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 6th April 2018 - "The Fox on the Swing" by Evelina Daciute and Ausra Kiudulaite (Thames and Hudson)

This is really something special, for many many reasons - not least of all the fact that it perfectly addresses a real problem we've had with picture books since we first started this blog...
"The Fox on the Swing" by Evelina Daciute,  illustrated by Ausra Kiudulaite is a glorious tale of a child's imagination, a new-found friendship and what happens when life is full of ups and downs (a bit like a fox on a swing in fact), and new beginnings.

The tale begins with a boy named Paul. Paul is rather lucky. He actually lives in a tall, tall tree in the middle of a beautiful park.

Dad is a helicopter pilot, and he takes his little orange helicopter on trips to ferry goods and people there and back again.

Mum is an artist, creating the most amazing pottery and ceramics.

It's a totally idyllic life.

Every day Paul takes a trip to the bakery to buy three bread rolls for tea, and being the adventurous sort he likes to take the quick way there, and the long way back, taking in all the sights and sounds, to-ing and fro-ing that happens in the park every day.

But one day Paul finds a swing, and on the swing is a fox. She is fast asleep but Paul begins to realise he rather looks forward to seeing her on her swing. Not every time, but most times.

One time Paul finds the fox swinging, back and forth with all the consummate ease a fox can muster.

This fox is wise, and she imparts beautiful nuggets of wisdom and life lessons, passed on to her by her very wise parents and grandparents.

Paul becomes friends with the fox, but then life takes a twist. Dad gets a better job, in a bigger city, with a bigger and roomier treehouse to live in and a bigger orange helicopter.

The family must up sticks and move, but Paul knows that he'll miss his friend so much and can't stop thinking about her.

Life at the new place is sad at first but there's a surprise waiting for Paul as he finds a new path back through the new park where their new tree house stands...

Beautifully told, and beautifully illustrated, we had to make this a book of the week. First, it perfectly demonstrates that if authors and illustrators are allowed the 'extra room' of being allowed to kick through those stupid low word counts and page spreads, they can really go to town on their stories, producing longer but deliciously wordy and gloriously descriptive stories, that really flesh out their characters and messages so well.

It also uses that extra space wisely, there's not a drop of wasted narrative here, the story flows gorgeously and even introduces a neat twist and tension to keep you reading right through to the (glorious) end (and yes, you may even shed a tear - we won't spoil why).

Above all though, this is a book filled with joy - as orange as a fox's ears, an orange helicopter, mum's pottery or next door's pet hamster.

Honestly, we need more books like this. We need to break through the stagnation going on in picture books, that horrid obsession with keeping everything economically short. When you read a breathtaking and fantastic story like this, it makes you wonder what it'd be like if all authors and illustrators were allowed to produce picture books this length.

We absolutely loved this.

C's best bit: All the little in-jokes and observations around the city where Paul lives (and all the crazy peripheral characters - like the wi-fi obsessed dude on his phone!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Glorious, luxurious, long and satisfying storytelling that stretches our expectations of the picture book format in the best ways possible. A fab core message of friendship and taking life by the horns, adapting to change but above all treasuring those around us that we love.
Utterly stunning stuff.

"The Fox on the Swing" by Evelina Daciute, illustrated by Ausra Kiudulaite is out now, published by Thames and Hudson (kindly supplied for review).