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I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again – I have a lot of little humans in my life, so I’m almost always looking for new picture books to gift… for birthdays, holidays, or even just a casual visit! It’s one of my life goals to be known as the aunt or cousin who always gives books. Some years I find an across-the-board winner and it gets gifted to everyone (see: anything by Oge Mora!), and some years each kiddo gets their own pick. This year, I have a couple of excellent candidates for picture books, and Kate Read’s One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller is one of them!
In this entertaining picture book, a hungry fox is determined to make dinner out of at least one of the three hens in the hen house. Everything is going as you’d expect… with tension amplified over the course of each page spread… until there’s an unexpected twist at the end! One Fox is an inventive, beautifully illustrated take on the classic counting book genre, and is sure to be a favorite with both children and the adults doing read alouds.
The text in One Fox is charmingly minimalist: the story is told through the counting, with each number accompanied by only a short phrase. There are no full sentences until the very last page of the book, yet author-illustrator Read imbues each page spread with a sense of growing menace and danger (kid-appropriate, of course). The stripped down text means more time for pondering the art, and an appeal to a wider age range. In addition, Read uses adjectives that may be new to young readers: famished, sly, and beady, for example. Several of the word combinations are alliterative or rhyme, making the brief text even more of a delight to read.
Of course, the most important part of any picture book are the PICTURES – and Read’s art is fantastic. Her painted, textured, cut-paper art is reminiscent of both recent favorite Oge Mora (Thank You, Omu! and Saturday) and celebrated, classic children’s book author Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day). Of course, Read’s art is all her own: her choice to center the main character(s) – or the part of them described – in each panel and keep the background understated and restrained helps to build the sense of unease and thrill necessary to this story. Her vivid color choices also gratify, and the way the gradations in hue are layered, one on top of another, impart the sensation of fur and feathers.
I could go on, but it’s a short book in the end, and I don’t want to spoil it. One Fox is a lot of fun (which books should be!), and it feels clever, hilarious, and the tiniest bit subversive. An enjoyable read for all ages!
Recommended for: little ones ages 1-5, for librarians/teachers/parents looking for smart and short read alouds, and for anyone who enjoys their reading with unexpected twists.
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2019
One Fox lives up to its name as a true thriller and shows just how effective an art form the picture book can be. Debut author-illustrator Kate Read employs an impressive range of dramatic blacks and makes expert use of negative space to create a dynamic, engaging narrative. This is a suspenseful, creative counting book that dazzles with beautiful artwork and brilliantly economical storytelling.
Children will love counting along with each thrilling page, and they will delight at the story’s climax, which explodes with color and subtly shows the power of bravery and teamwork. I can’t recommend this clever, sophisticated book highly enough – with its striking art and compelling plot, it’s sure to be a storytime favorite.
Reviewed in the United States on December 20, 2019
This and the book "The Rough Patch" are my two favorite children's books right now. I usually hate counting or alphabet books because they are boring - but this one was so suspenseful and exciting! My 4 year old son loved it (after I wrestled the kindle away from him and forced him to let me read to him - sigh - but he did love it!). Great illustrations, too!