Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

I am always on the look-out for a new middle grade novel by Kathi Appelt. Her Newbery Award-winning The Underneath told the story of a dog named Ranger and a small cat family who inhabit "the underneath," the space beneath the porch of an angry man named Gar Face. Keeper is a whimsical book about a blue moon, mermaids, and a seagull called Captain. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp follows Bingo and J'miah, two raccoons who are trying to save their swamp. 

Maybe a Fox is a collaboration between Appelt and author Alison McGhee. YA expert Teri Lesesne posted about her tear-stained copy of Maybe of Fox a few weeks ago, and it was a reminder for me to pick up the newest Appelt novel. 

Appelt and McGhee write about two sisters named Sylvie and Jules who live with their father in a wooded area of Vermont. Their mother died of a heart defect before the book begins, and now Sylvie and Jules have a more active role in taking care of themselves. This involves a new arrangement, where they are responsible for catching the school bus alone, and after their dad leaves for work at the lumber mill. They also live by their dad's four rules: "Do not get of earshot of the house. Do not mess with wild animals. Do not miss the bus. Do not, under any circumstances, go near the Slip." The Slip lies in the woods that border their house, and, 
According to Sam's dad, who was a forest ranger, it was a freak of geology, the result of a seismic shift, a small earthquake that forced the river's bed to disappear into a large cavern that was hiding there all along, opened up by the shifting earth.
But they do go near the Slip sometimes, a place where both girls - and their best friend Sam - cast wishing stones. Sam, for instance, wishes for his brother Elk to come home from Afghanistan, where he is serving with his best friend Zeke. 

One morning, instead of running to catch the bus like they usually do, older sister Sylvie takes a wishing stone into the woods and doesn't come back. But on the day she disappears, a new fox kit is about to be born, a Kennen fox named Senna. The paths of Senna and Jules continue to cross throughout the novel, winding a path towards its conclusion. 

Maybe a Fox is a beautiful book, best read in a single read. Appelt and McGhee's collaboration is seamless, and their voices merge into one authorial voice. I absolutely loved this book. 

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