Return of the Fox: Further Adventures of a One-Eyed Chook by Pat Clarke, illustrated by Graeme Compton (Little Steps Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
Reviewed by Anne Hamilton
This book is an unusual hyrid: it’s an illustrated chapter book presented in over-sized hardcover format. It’s the size of a picture book for early readers, making it about twice the usual dimensions of a chapter book. It’s of substantial length (76 pages) with a high level of vocabulary but curiously directed at preschoolers.
Compton’s illustrations, particularly of Clancy the goanna (my favourite), are a treat. Despite the title, the fox doesn’t appear until almost half way through the story. The earlier part is taken up with a description of the friendship between Elvis the eagle and Sheila the chook. Elvis is shot by some car thieves while trying to prevent them from setting fire to a stolen car – an action that could start a bushfire and result in huge loss of animal life. Sheila is hurt while getting down from a perch. They both wind up being sheltered and nursed back to health by Ma Taylor, a strange old lady who lives in the forest, and takes care of a menagerie of different birds and animals.
It’s hard to keep up with who’s who in her zoo, though Dulcie, the traumatised hen whose speech is peppered with EGGscellent and EGGxaggerated, mannerisms is a bird memorable for her eccentricity.
Rufus the fox hears a rumour that Elvis has died and, although he promised in an earlier story never to return to Goonoo Forest, decides to advantage of the opportunity. A chook for dinner would go down nicely! Or so he thinks.
Older children may enjoy this barnyard tale with its focus on courage and friendship.