The Fox and the Wild

Meet Fred, a city fox born and reared, and used to spending his nights rummaging in bins with his cousins. Fred is sure there is more to the world than the noisy, smelly, traffic-filled streets of the city. When a passing pigeon tells him about The Wild, ‘where trees spread their branches and the wind blows over the hills’, Fred is determined to find his way there.

This is the second picturebook by talented illustrator from Northern Ireland Clive McFarland who also created A Bed For Bear. Creating a story around the character of a city fox is a wonderful way of introducing children to the night-time city, so beautifully captured in McFarland’s collage-like illustrations. As many children live in towns and cities themselves, the story will feel familiar while also introducing them to animals and birds in a way that is natural rather than overly anthropomorphised.

The illustrations have been created using crayon, acrylic, watercolour and digital media, resulting in a landscape that is simplified but evocative. I particularly liked the night-time streetscapes, where we can explore the city along with Fred as he heads off on his great hunt to find The Wild. The animal characters are suitably cute and appealing, and the ending, where city fox Fred meets an equally cute country fox, has echoes of Town Mouse and Country Mouse, and surely suggests a sequel?

One quibble – black text on a dark blue background is difficult to read, particularly in dim bedroom light – which is a pity, as this book makes perfect bedtime reading.