Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Brit/ Isabelle Arsenault

In many cultures childhood and pre-adolescence are considered havens of learning and growing. These are times when joy should be abundant and learning continuous. What happens then, when this is not the case? What happens when a young person struggles at such an early point in life, how can she cope with the flaws she thinks she has and the unhappiness that this implies?

Jane, the fox and me tells the story of Helene. Helene's age is never stated but the reader can infer that she is about 13 or 14 years old. Helene's story begins with her entering a stall only find that offensive comments have been written about her. Helene goes home and infers that the same girl who wrote the rude comments is the girl that used to be her friend. Helene puts up with the bullying in school and develops the idea that the rude comments she receives about her supposed “overweight”, are true. As such, Helene is socially withdrawn and instead finds comfort in reading Jane Eyre. One day Helene's teacher announces that there will be a class wide camping trip to celebrate the end of the school year. Helene suspects that the trip will be a another opportunity for her to be teased and bullied. At first this proves true, but soon and encounter with a fox and a peer turn Helene's life in an unsuspected direction...

This book as a whole is a great read. The book is a graphic novel that is mostly illustrated in a grey scale. Color is used to denote changes in the protagonist's emotional state. This form of storytelling is one that adds strength to the book as it relates to a middle school audience. The fact that the story is presented as a graphic novel allows the reader to be given information without the outright use of text. This is a strength because it allows the reader to develop their own feelings about the story. The general idea will be communicated but by providing pictures instead of text, a reader is allowed a measure of freedom in his/her interaction with the story. Another strength of the book is that it's focus is a teen subject with a very modern problem( as explained in this summary ). And while not every teen or pre-teen has been a victim of bullying, the book's voice handles the conflict in the voice of the protagonist and creates a sympathetic story. A final factor of the book that I believe to be a strength in the construction of the book is its straightforwardness. Jane, the fox and me spans only a couple of weeks in Helene's life and this allows a very concise handling of a complex topic. This book can be used as a great way to open discussion about the topics that are discussed and can even be used as a prelude into the delving of more complex texts.

Ultimately, I think this book is one that will foster a connection with students in elementary school and even first year high school students. The illustrative aspect of the text might encourage reluctant readers to pick up the book and explore the complex topics that are covered. Such topics include bullying about weight, misconceptions of identity, gender, and friendship. I see merit in creating a small lesson plan surrounding this text.


Karra Badakhshanian said...

I really enjoyed your review! I would definitely consider reading this book after reading your review on it. I think it matches well with an adolescent audience too because it deals with a lot of the problems and challenges they go through during this period. I really loved how you mentioned the colors in the book because this could teach students about symbolism and could be analyzed greatly as a class. I am very interested in knowing what the encounter was with the fox and Helene's peer. With this text being a graphic novel, it would definitely encourage reluctant readers or even students with reading problems because the pictures act as an aid for them. When I was in high school, we never read graphic novels, however, I think they could be a great asset for a class. I could see this book in an English Language Arts class too. I think it is important for students to be given different kinds of books in high school to open their views on reading more.

marty edwards said...

This is a very nice review, thoroughly done. I'm interested in the implications of the protagonist's interest in Jane Eyre... Perhaps a commonality of isolation? Also, I'm really curious about the fox, what it represents and so forth. In fact, you've written your review in such a way that it peaks interest without any spoilers! Nicely done! I agree this could be relevant, even in high school--bullying is a pervasive problem, and sometimes (regardless of age) a graphic novel is a nice change up.