In Case There's a Fox Critique, Review and Activities
Title: In Case There's a Fox
Author: Aya Katz
Book and cover Illustrated by: Aya Katz
Audio Narrator: John Patrick Conn
Inverted A Press -- available on Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes
Category: Fiction ; Poetry; Animal fantasy
Approximate age group: 4-9
Activities at the end.
"In Case There's a Fox" is a clever story about a little girl named Sword who goes searching each day for a fox, with her trusty bloodhound and a quaint box of paints. Why the box of paints? Each day she goes out, she calls for the fox, trying to lure him with the promise of a painting of him and his family. The paints are the key to her being able to observe the fox, in his natural environment, for more than just a fleeting moment.
"Come out just a bit. Oh please come and sit. For a portrait of you and your wife and your kits. And so now and then, Sword calls out again, Come, I'll paint you a picture to hang in your den."
The wild rabbits (hares) are no help at all. And there's good reason for this. "In Case There's a Fox" not only works to capture the imagination and curiosities of children, it also explores, in an underlying theme: the trust and mistrust that occurs between animals in the wild vs those in domestication. Sword is well aware of nature's way, and thus her clever "plan to appeal" to the fox she is "hunting".
This children's picture book is set in metrical poetry, much like many classic stories and nursery rhymes for children. And there's good reason for why Aya Katz chose this classic form for her book. "For children," she says, "It's much easier to recite and to memorize when a story is written in this form. It's a more accessible form." And while she did not have recitation specifically in mind, children love to recite their favorites.
This story will be one of those favorites. It feels familiar. It captures a child's imagination in a quiet, introspective way, making it a perfect story for bedtime, or, perhaps, before a nice, thoughtful morning or afternoon walk or play. "In Case There's a Fox" promotes dreaming and wondering, in a way akin to children's author Jan Brett.
While on the small side for a children's picture book, in shape and size it is similar to an average chapter book, though thinner, with a glossy cover and is easy for a parent or teacher to hold up with one hand while reading out loud to a group. The pages are medium in thickness and are easy to turn both while holding up to read out loud and for smaller children flipping through. The accompanying illustrations are one page spreads, with the text on each adjoining page. The words are large, bold and
easy for children to follow along while being read to, even at a distance, or to point to as they're reading and sounding out
words on their own. (For more on the beautiful illustrations that accompany this story, see About the Author and Illustrator below.)
Some of the words don't fall into the category of beginner reading. For example it offers the following words: inspecting, quaint, concern, appeal, doleful, spacious, and lingering. It is, however, my strong opinion and firm belief, that offering children a spectrum of words that are not ordinary (either in their everyday language or in common beginner books) is extremely beneficial to young minds. Doing so will actually enhance and enrich their lives and their reading experience, and compel them to respond to reading in a way that is more rewarding to them. They will be better prepared for and less afraid of reading bigger books, when the time comes.
The kinds of words a child is exposed to plays a big role in how a child views the world. Everything an educator or parent can do to broaden that world and strengthen each child's craving for books builds stronger, healthier, more confident minds.
Always remember that kids appreciate a challenge. They will surprise you and love to surprise themselves.
About the Author and Illustrator:
Aya Katz is a Linguist, Primatologist, and the owner of Inverted A Press, PubWages, and Historia Obscura. Author of seven books, Katz is best known for her historical novel "Theodosia and the Pirates". She currently has three children's books on the market, two of which feature her daughter, Sword. It was Katz's hopes of seeing a fox upon first settling on ten acres of land in the Ozarks that sparked the writing of her first publication, "In Case There's a Fox". It would take three whole years before she actually saw one.
Her acrylic illustrations use rich, deep colors, and suit the fairy tale quality of "In Case There's a Fox" quite nicely. They stemmed from narrative paintings she created about ten years ago, while indulging in acrylic painting in the barn with her then four year old daughter, Sword, the two of them
seated on sawhorses, painting away for hours at a time.
1. Read other fox books. Some favorites are:
- · The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
- · One Fine Day by Holly Hogrogian
- · The Umbrella by Jan Brett
- · Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
- · Fox by Margaret Wild
- · My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
- · Doctor De Soto by William Steig
2. Have your child or students paint or draw pictures of what they think
fox and his family might look like or might have been doing. This is a great time to experiment with the same medium used by the author and illustrator: acrylic paints. Markers, crayons, or colored pencils would also be good mediums. Be sure to display each child's depiction on a classroom wall or class hallway. If doing this project at home, you can also display their little masterpiece on their door or on the fridge.
3. Share ideas of different methods one could use to attract a fox and what he or she would do once they did.
4. Talk about the use of certain words, such as "hunting". For the word "hunting", for example, one's initial mental image would be as in hunting for food. Hunting is used here, and appropriately so, to mean "searching or looking for". This is a great way to teach and discover the meanings and inferences in the words an author chooses to use in order to enhance their story and topic.
5. Make fox masks or tails out of felt and/or fabric and yarn.
6. Either before or after reading, learn more about the setting and characters of the book. In particular: phlox, fields, foxes, bloodhounds, and hares.
7. Create a word search using the more difficult or favorite words from the book.