This collection of gentle, thoughtful stories paired with skillful watercolors will be visually appealing to certain audiences.
The first story is titled simply “Here.” With a burgundy leaf and a swipe of rich brown the reader is introduced to Tiny Fox who lives happily alone under an apple tree. Then Great Boar appears and Tiny Fox has to learn to share, but it is only when they are separated at the end of the chapter that Tiny Fox comes to appreciate his new companion. In the following brief stories, “Together,” “Apart,” and “There,” the two experience the beauties of autumn and the cold and hunger of winter, Together they find the courage to travel to find new adventures.
Tiny Fox’s coloring changes from pale browns to rich orange, but Great Boar retains his reddish brown hue throughout the story. Their comparative sizes vary; on the cover, Tiny Fox sits daintily on Great Boar’s snout, but throughout the story he appears at only a fraction of Great Boar’s size, curled in a disconsolate ball, or trotted cautiously behind his new friend. Great Boar, shown with a scattering of bristles and a fang-like tusk, trots about on short, stubby legs, but nevertheless is able to scale a tree, roll down a hill, and curl up comfortingly beside Tiny Fox.
There is no translator listed, although the text appears to have been translated from the Polish; an edition was also published in Spanish in 2021. Besides the illustration for a picture book, That Night, A Monster, this appears to be the first appearance of award-winning artist Kolomycka in a mainstream US press. The beginning of each story has text boxes with simple explanatory sentences, explaining that Tiny Fox is happy alone, that winter is coming and it is cold. The large panels and full-page spreads transition to smaller panels, sometimes wordless, showing the two friends navigating the seasonal challenges and quietly discussing whether they should leave their apple tree, where to find food, and which direction they want to travel in. Only one other creature, an owl, appears near the end of the story to offer advice after they quarrel. Both Tiny Fox and Great Boar use male pronouns.
There’s a gentle humor in the illustrations of Great Boar and Tiny Fox rolling down a hill, their wary, sidewise glances, and their scrambling attempts to climb a tree, but this is more of a gentle story of friendship and the changing seasons. Readers who are more familiar and comfortable with the raucous humor of Dog Man or the clear-cut art and brief text of beginning graphic novels like Cranky Chicken and Narwhal and Jelly are unlikely to be drawn towards this more European conception of comic art, but those who enjoy quieter, more reflective stories and the slow passage of seasons will find this a restful and satisfying story.
Hand this to young readers who enjoy the variety of art styles seen in Toon Books or the quirkier stories of Graphic Universe. This would also pair well with units on art styles and watercolors and the timeless, philosophical story will appeal to some older readers as well.
Tiny Fox and Great Boar, vol 1: There
By Berenika Kolomycka
Oni Press, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: age 6+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)
Creator Representation: Polish