Barbara Reid is a big name in the Canadian children’s book world. As one of the pioneers of plasticine illustration, Reid is hugely successful in Canada, and a new Barbara Reid book is met with much fanfare. Fox Walked Alone is not a new book. It was published last year. But it has recently been nominated for the 2008 Blue Spruce Award, an annual award given by the Ontario Library Association, in which school students across the province read a series of nominated titles for their age group and then select their favourite to win the prize.
If you don’t know Barbara Reid’s work, Fox Walked Alone will surely make you want to seek out all of her books. It is a fine story, and the illustrations are jaw-droppingly good. Barbara has turned to the story of Noah and the Ark for a second time to create this tale. Her first take on the biblical story came in Two by Two, and in my opinion, Fox Walked Along is the better book, mostly due to the charm of the title character.
Having heard Reid speak on two occasions, I have the impression that she is a total perfectionist, and this comes through in the meticulousness of the illustration. I cannot begin to imagine how long she must work on each picture, but the textures, the emotions and expressions on the animal’s faces, and the panoramas she creates in this story are masterful. I remember her saying that she stores the works in progress, and the finished pieces, in pizza boxes in her studio! From time to time, the verse is not as flawless as the images are, but Reid gets it right on nearly every page. It works very well the way Reid has brought a hint of fable to the traditional story, as fox’s true cleverness emerges only at the end of the book.
Anyone who knows how to create individually-glistening raindrops from plasticine is worth knowing about. The kids are sure to cast many votes in Fox’s favour.
Fox Walked Alone is published by North Winds Press (Scholastic).