Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Understatement can be powerful. Example: Jane the Fox and Me, a graphic novel by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault about a girl who is bullied at her elementary school in Montreal.

"Don't talk to Helene, she has no friends now." The words that Helene saw on the toilet stall door remain with her. They float scrawled across the bleak late winter street scene as Helene waits for a bus.

Helene encounters a fox while camping.
"Its eyes are so kind I just about burst. That
same look in another human's eyes, and my
soul would be theirs for sure."
Helen's escape is into the pages of Jane Eyre. "I have time to read something like thirteen pages between school and home."

Artist Isabelle Arsenault depicts Helene's world in charcoal shades. Vegetation is an extended motif representing mental health and well-being. When Helen's spirits lift -- a new dress made by her mother; an ice cream cone -- plants spring up around her, always gray. Even the new shoots in the window boxes of her apartment are a pale, smudgy gray.

The lush vegetation is in contrast to the sombre colour palette, creating a pleasing tension between exuberance and restraint. When Helene makes a new friend, things get better for her. Hope is visually represented -- but quietly, as befits this bookish child. A little sprout of yellow among the gray leaves, another of cyan: together they hold the possibility of green. It's absolutely lovely.

Readalikes: Harvey (Herve Bouchard and Janice Nadeau); Chiggers (Hope Larson).

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