Monday, April 13, 2020

Book of the Week: A Game of Fox & Squirrels

by Jenn Reese

Henry Holt , 2020

224 pages 


Ages 9-12

Samantha, 11, and her sister Caitlyn, 14, have just arrived at their aunt Vicky’s in Oregon, but Sam is already thinking about going home. Caitlyn, who has a broken arm, seems content. After Aunt Vicky gives Sam a beautiful old card game called “Fox & Squirrels,” Sam encounters the dashing fox and friendly squirrels from the game in the woods. She’s determined to succeed at the challenges the Fox sets to earn the Golden Acorn, with which, he explains, Sam can wish herself back home. But the fox’s requests are morally questionable and increasingly disturbing, while his unpredictable personality and the way the squirrels strive to not upset him mirrors a truth that Sam doesn’t want to admit—the truth of why they’ve come to stay with Aunt Vicky and her wife, Hannah: Sam and Caitlyn’s dad is dangerous in the exact same way, and Caitlyn’s broken arm was no accident. A book that explores child abuse and its impact within a family—their mother’s ineffectiveness at protecting them, Caitlyn’s efforts to protect them both—and across generations—Vicky and their dad were both victims as children--is tense but also beautifully reassuring, especially as Vicky and Hannah provide safety and support for the sisters. The line between fantasy and reality is never delineated in a book about a white family that allows readers to mine their own meanings from its depths. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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