By day she would look out for the still ones, the quiet ones, those who danced and sighed and dreamed alone.
And at home, her head full of their stories, Adelaide would work into the night, taking a little bit of the world and making it her own.
But there was always something missing.
Adelaide lives alone in a shop that was once bustling and lively. She observes the world around her, and in particular the lonely people who inhabit it. She makes art from what she sees, but her quiet life is missing something. An unexpected encounter with Fox, who she has observed, but who has also been observing her, leads her to put herself outside her comfort zone, transforming not just her own world, but the lives of the other lonely people around her.
Adelaide’s Secret World is a magical, richly wrought picture book. Rabbit Adelaide lives in a world inhabited both by humans and by a wonderful array of animal characters. Readers of all ages will enjoy discovering the fantastical elements – flying fish, a boat sailing through the sky, a bear and a goose sheltering together under a tree, a lion dancing with a human, and much more.
The story is gentle and minimal, so that readers can interpret and ponder during – and long after – reading. The art is simply divine, again with much to ponder.
Suitable for all ages.
Adelaide’s Secret World, by Elise Hurst
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Life is great on Peachberry Farm until a greedy fox starts paying regular visits. He keeps stealing Harriet’s eggs. Harriet knows he is scary, but she is also determined to stop his raids. None of the other animals want to help – they are too scared. So it is up to Harriet.
When the fox makes his next visit, Harriet is ready for him with some special eggs which she has prepared just for him – with a dash of chilli. The unsuspecting fox gets more than he bargained for when he gobbles up the special eggs. Harriet watches in glee as he flees the farm, never to be seen again.
Harriet and the Fox is a bright and humorous picture book offering from author Rina A. Foti and illustrator Judith Rossell. The text is simple and youngsters will love seeing the mean old fox outwitted by the clever hen. They will also adore the illustrations with big, bold animals and loads of colour.
Harriet and the Fox, by Rina A. Foti, illustrated by Judith Rossell
Koala Books, 2004
This picture book combines two of Australia’s best-known names in picture books – author Maragret Wild and illustrator Ron Brooks. In the four years since it was first published it has assumed classic status as a truly memorable and great example of the picture book form.
The fable like story tells of an unusual friendship between a dog and a magpie. Magpie’s wing is injured in a fire and she can no longer fly. She is looked after by Dog, who wills her to get better. He is blind in one eye. He puts Magpie on his back and runs with her. Magpie tells Dog that he can be her wings and she will be his missing eye. The friendship continues until a Fox arrives. Seeing the pair cosily together, he conspires to part them. He cajoles Magpie to come with him. He can run faster than Dog and Magpie will love the feeling of really flying on Fox’s back. When Magpie finally agrees, Fox abandons her in the desert, telling her that now she and Dog will learn what it is like to be truly alone. The story ends with Magpie, regretting her abandonment of Dog, beginning the slow journey back to her friend.
This is a story which grips the reader. The temptation of the fox and his leading Magpie into the desert has a biblical quality, and the seemingly sad ending still rings with the courage of the flightless Magpie hopping towards home across the desert.
Brooks’ illustrations and hand-lettering add to the myth-like feel of the story. This print, the use of collage and the reds and ochres prevalent in the book all combine to create an illusion of age, as if this a story created long ago and perhaps drawn on ancient parchment or etched on a cave wall. The dark colours of the illustrations also reflect the serious tone of the tale.
With this tone, Fox may not make for fun bedtime reading, but it is an outstanding book which kids will be drawn to and which will encourage discussion about friendship, loyalty and betrayal. It would also make an excellent classroom text for literature study and visual literacy lessons.
Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks
Allen & Unwin, First Published 2000, new edition 2004