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Monday, April 7, 2014

The Fox and the Crow, written by Manasi Subramaniam and illustrated by Culpeo S. Fox. Karadi Tales Company, 2014. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"When the moon slithers
into the open skies,
surely some trickery
is afoot.

Fox raises her neck
and howls.
Oh, she's a temptress,
that one."

I think when you can take an old story (in this case, a fable) and tell it in a totally fresh way, it should be celebrated. This familiar tale of two creatures who are consumed by pride, greed and trickery is brilliantly cast in dark, textured artwork alongside beautifully crafted language.

While they have nothing to say to each other, the author creates an almost explosive battle between the two over a piece of stolen bread:

"Fox sneaks towards Crow -
she always sneaks."

In the twilight of a forest night, Fox awaits his chance to use his cunning to take food from the mouth of his adversary. All the while, we are in close proximity to the action on pages alive with powerful illustrations that bring these animals near enough to touch. The fading light of dusk seems the perfect time to sneak in and grab what smells so good. Crow is not afraid to take that chance. Fox is determined to have the spoils of Crow's daring. The action is tense and happens slowly, keeping the reader's focus every step of the way. All the while a wise owl watches with a sense of indignity at the wily cunning of the victor. It's tough not to feel sympathetic toward the proud and greedy crow.

There is palpable drama here, and an ending not unfamiliar. The freshness of the telling, the captivating allure of the poetic text, and the stunning ever-changing perspectives that invite both horizontal and vertical consideration of the action will put this on your list of books to be shared, and soon.

You will love it for your ears, and for your eyes. It is quite remarkable!

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