Jane, the Fox & Me
Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou
‘Waiting for the bus on Sherbrooke today is like waiting to die‘. What comfort is there for Jane, the Fox & Me? While Hèléne was once amongst the girls who dreamed of crinolines and vintage, her name is scrawled on bathroom walls, ‘Don’t take to Hèléne, she has no friends now.‘ Hèléne burns with fury, so hides within her book ‘called Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë’. Although Hèléne has taken to reading on the bus as a way of guarding herself from Geneviève’s insults, in truth she hears every word. Yet, what of this book?
We travel between Hèléne’s life and that of Jane Eyre. Yet how can these two girls have anything in common? Hèléne considers how Jane grew up ‘clever, slender and wise, so that no-one calls [her] a liar, a thief or an ugly duckling.’ What happens when a school camp means sharing a dorm and a new swimsuit? While ‘Jane Eyre may be an orphan, homely, battered alone and abandoned- she is not never has been and never will be a big, fat sausage‘. Hèléne decides that she will form a strategy, like Jane Eyre did. Yet will this strategy work for her at Lake Kanawana, and thereafter in the ‘outcasts’ tent?
Hèléne is recognisable; the girl searching for a way to survive the masses, while hoping that who she is may be enough. Will her literary protagonist provide inspiration? Or could there be something more out there? Fanny Britt’s brilliant story of two lives, telling Hèléne’s inner journey alongside the story of Jane Eyre, is quite outstanding. We’re enraptured further through the brilliant framing, sequencing, tone and colour use of Isabelle Arsenault. Just as in her Captain Rosalie and Just Because, these illustrations are a story in themselves. Bookwagon recommends this title proudly.
Observer winner of the New York Times’ Best Illustrated Book Award