Beth Ferry, a best-selling picture book author who has collaborated with a number of illustrators, branched out into graphic novels in 2020 with a new series, Fox & Rabbit. A classic odd couple story on the surface, it introduced a new illustrator as well, Gergely Dudas, who has previously created a number of seek-and-find activity books. This new series portrays a quirky pair of friends, the rather childish Fox and slightly more mature Rabbit, as well as a small cast of sweet and funny characters including perpetually hungry Sparrow and perpetually late Tortoise.
Both books feature a series of simple, interconnected adventures. In the first volume, Fox and Rabbit visit a fair and win a beach ball, so they go to the beach. At the beach they find a bottle with a map to Surprise Island. On the island they discover a trunk full of seeds, which they plant in a garden. Rabbit succumbs to temptation and eats the garden, but they repair their friendship by growing one remaining seedling together with a surprise all its own that leads them to creating a lemonade stand. In the second book they decide how to spend the money earned at their lemonade stand, which leads to a bubble gum glowing contest, then to an unfortunate haircut for Fox and a brand-new friend for both Fox and Rabbit. At the end of each story Tortoise appears, disappointed that they’ve once again missed all the fun, until all the friends join together at the end of the second book for some autumnal fun.
The imagination of the characters truly shines in the second volume, as Fox and Rabbit switch between everyday activities and a delightfully imaginative inner life. For example, when they are playing with Owl they fall into quicksand, climb a volcano, and rescue a friend all in the confines of a woodland playground with swings and a slide.
Dudas’ previous work in seek-and-find books is shown throughout the art in the series, which features a delicacy of line and detail not usually seen in graphic novels for younger readers. Bright greens and oranges meld with the soft browns of Rabbit’s fur and are set off by a sprinkling of sharp red leaves in the second volume. The carefully organized panels make it easy for young readers to follow the action and events of each short story, even when the characters are switching between their imaginations and reality. Dudas shows a wonderful grasp of timing and clarity in his art, especially since it Is his first venture into making comics, as he draws readers through Ferry’s simple adventures. The characters are not very emotionally expressive, with simple dots and lines for facial features, but their movements are clear and convey their little arguments, reconciliations, and games and the fun they have together.
Ever since Mo Willems introduced Elephant and Piggie there’s been a growing market for comics for younger readers and this is a strong bridge comic that will help beginning readers move on to longer and more complex titles. It’s less likely to appeal to struggling or reluctant readers, due to the smaller font and early reader style of stories, lacking the more explosive adventure and wacky hilarity of Captain Underpants or Bad Guys. However, this is ideal for beginning readers who are fluent but not yet ready for more complex themes or who cannot handle scary or suspenseful stories. If you have 1st and 2nd graders who are capable of reading at a higher level but not emotionally ready for older fare, this sweet series will be just right for them, combining gentle lessons of friendship, quirky humor, and attractive art for a relatable and comforting reading experience.
Fox & Rabbit
By Beth Ferry
Art by Gergely Dudas
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)