Do you ever hear news of a book and think 'I must get a copy of that,' and life goes on and you half- forget about it.
Then you see it in a shop (Falmouth Bookseller) and for some reason you still don't buy it.
And then you hear a bit more and suddenly you have to have a copy yesterday.
So it was with The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (published by Particular Books part of Penguin Random House) and with available copies diminishing rapidly around the bookshops of the South West I am grateful to Ron Johns (Mr SW Bookshop) and the St Ives Bookseller for reserving, taking payment over the phone and posting a copy to me tout de suite.
The premise of the book is deceptively simple but that doesn't make the writing of its brief narrative any easier...every word must count. In many ways these are the most difficult books to get right.
Fox, alone in the woods, is guided by the light of a star which becomes his companion. Foraging and munching his way through his day Fox is happy...
All of Fox's
bound to the
light of Star.
And so it
had always been.
Finally rallying and setting off in search of Star of course Fox eventually finds a sky full of them and is safe in the knowledge that amongst them is his very own friend.
Now that is probably more words than Coralie Bickford-Smith uses in the entire book of sixty-four pages, but, as you might expect from the designer of the Penguin Clothbound Series, those words have been embedded in some truly beautiful illustrations. Citing William Blake and William Morris as her inspiration, and with high production values including typesetting by Coralie in Agfa Wile 12pt/15pt, and printing on Munken Pure Rough paper, the book is a treasure.
If the feel of a book matters then The Fox and the Star has Feel Factor x 10. The light roughness of the clothbound cover that denotes quality; the beautiful endpapers, the crisp pages making it abundantly clear ...this book is one of those that has to be held and stroked. A lot of which I have done since The Fox and the Star arrived, and Bookhound too now that he is deeply into his bookbinding life and endpapers are his new most favourite thing. You know how sometimes we all have to sneak books/wool/fabric in the door unnoticed, well it's happening with his endpapers at the moment.
The foremost allegories of loss, bereavement along with acceptance and resilience in The Fox and the Star are not subsumed by the design but rather enhanced by it, as the five Pantones shift from bright to dark monotones, with the gradual return of the colours as fox finds himself in a bright new future.
And for the inner child in all of us there is plenty to keep the attention.
Beetles and rabbits to be found and counted as they scurry unconfined by borders into and around spacious margins: Blakeian beams of light leading the eye with Fox through the Morris-like tendrils and curlicues from one page to the next...
In my previous most recent health visitor incarnation before 'retirement', four years working as a Parent Supporter specialising in loss and bereavement, miscarriage and stillbirth and cancer and serious illness for Netmums.com, I had a lot on my plate, and was always on the lookout for useful books for children on the subjects various. Each day I would log on to the forums and have no idea what might await a reply, but there would invariably be sad parents desperate to know what to say to sad children following a loss of some description. I only had words to work with, and sometimes thirty or more replies to do, so I was always grateful for the words and images of others and had my go-to book lists to recommend...
Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, Waterbugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney, The Lonely Tree by Nicholas Halliday ( and plenty more suggested by the incredibly useful Little Parachutes if you are in need of help for any reason) and I would have happily added The Fox and the Star to my list. But invariably I would suggest that the books worked a sort of magic for grown-ups too, and Coralie's book is no exception. This year has been a case of 'bereavement specialist heal thyself' and we have paid proper time and attention to mourning the loss of the Tinker that's for sure, and books like this have had their place.
But that apart, it's the beauty and feel of the book that I keep returning to. It sits on the table and I keep on picking it up and wandering through, and with it comes an unexpectedly warm and fuzzy feeling about foxes... always a difficult state of mind to achieve with a gamekeeper in the family.
And I think I was right about our playful fox cub moment. This was certainly their last rough and tumble together before scattering, not a sign of them since that magical morning in late October...
So there I was sitting at my sewing table 'doing' my hexagons for the quilt that will be finished one day, when it occurred to me that I must include some florets that represent good books. Fabric designs can be made to tell wonderful stories too, so The Fox and the Stars is the first to be immortalised...