Translated from the French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, Jane, the Fox and Me pulled me in from the opening line.
‘There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today’, accompanied by the illustrations in shades of grey, black and dark shadows, pre-positioned me in the dark space Helene occupies, as I was alerted to the possible theme. But I could not have prepared myself for the assault on my emotions by the powerful and confronting text by Fanny Britt.
Although Isabelle Arsenault has done an outstanding job of accompanying the text with her graphic art panels, Britt has also created moving pictures with her words profiling the demoralizing effect on a child that emotional bullying can have. It's made even more disturbing by the fact that the bully is a former friend, who beguiles her peers into becoming one body to inflict pain and suffering for entertainment. Their merciless hunting down of Helene reduces her to an outcast, a friendless misfit. This combined with the poignant back story of Helene’s home life made the tears flow.
‘Waiting for the bus … is like waiting to die.’ Helene reads Jane Eyre on the bus to and from school to avoid hearing the taunts, which are relentless. At no time is there a softening of the blows.
At camp Helene sees a red fox, which I see as a metaphor for hope. His eyes are warm and gentle. This temporary glimpse of friendliness is destroyed again by the mob. ‘That same look in another human’s eyes and my soul would be theirs for sure,’ Helene remarks. It is when Helene sees that same look later in Geraldine’s eyes that hope surges again in her breast. Helene’s world changes colour, and so do the pictures in the book.
The illustrations that depict the references to Jane Eyre are in colour, for they signify a world outside Helene’s life. These perfectly positioned contrasts add richness and a respite from the bleeding and pain of Helene’s heart.
Title: Jane, the Fox and Me
Author: Fanny Britt
Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: October 2013
For ages: 12+
Type: Graphic Novel