The Australian award winning picture book Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, explores ideas of friendship, loyalty and betrayal through the indigenous animals of Magpie and Dog. Their world is changed by the arrival of Fox, an introduced species to the continent. Although traditionally suitable for young children, contemporary picture books often examine challenging themes and ideas that encourage deeper thought in an older audience.
As a belonging text, Fox makes a useful related text for Steven Herrick’s The Simple Gift. Both texts share similar narrative arcs concerning three major characters who seek new places to belong and find varying levels of support through the challenges they experience.
Remember to use the metalanguage when analysing a picture book to ensure your discussion attracts maximum marks. Aim for two to three paragraphs that could be interwoven with your analysis of your prescribed text. You might like to download this worksheet that I adapted from teaching notes by Janet Anderson.
When you have sufficient notes and understanding, try creating a graphic organiser to represent your ideas of Fox and belonging. Your ideas could become thesis statements or topic sentences to help structure an analysis, and make links to your prescribed text. Start simple, with a concept such as ‘friendship’ then build upon your ideas.
Choose specific openings (double page spreads) and add to the ideas in your graphic organiser. Build up your information and decide on one or two openings that you will analyse in detail. Draft and edit at least one paragraph for each opening – these paragraphs could then be used in an essay or extended response.
Carefully consider which openings you will analyse, as Fox is a popular text. Originality in selection of text, and textual detail is important when using related material. Here are two paragraphs for opening seven – they both require topic sentences to help link into a specific thesis or argument.
Opening seven details a split between all three characters: the left side has Magpie perched on a rock above Dog, whilst the right side page has Fox looming over Magpie. The colours provide a strong contrast between light and dark and reinforce the shift from contentment to the lack of confidence Magpie feels as Fox continues his manipulation. Fox’s body and eyes appear to add pressure and this is highlighted by the language – Fox whispers to Magpie “I can run faster than Dog”. The poorly formed lettering reminds us of the original audience for this picture book, children, yet the complex messages of loyalty and friendship are apparent through the actual dialogue.
The simplistic, almost naive style, of both the image and language serve to remind us of the many levels of meaning. From the obvious brush strokes and limited palette, the animals are deceptively easy to recognise and understand. This simplicity contradicts the powerful understanding developed by the reader of belonging and our assumptions based on accepted stereotyping. Although Dog and Magpie belong in the bush, and Fox is an introduced species, the friendships formed are not typical. This challenges our knowledge and makes us more able to accept a greater range of possibilities and helps create an inclusive world.