Little Fox is the result of a real urge to experiment, the power of language, a love of life, and an outstanding collaboration between illustrator Marije Tolman and author Edward van de Vendel. The central figure in this harmonious picture story is a fox cub who wants nothing more than to discover life, but then takes a tumble and finds himself in a dream that is actually a near-death experience.
Tolman, the illustrator, takes the lead in the opening scenes. In five double spreads, she gives the reader the space to get to know Little Fox and his habitat, for which she has employed grainy blue-green photographs of beach and dune landscapes. In combination with the pen drawings of animals and the cheerful bright-orange fox cub, this already results in an enchanting experience. The clever composition and varying perspectives make these spreads intriguing works of art that straddle the line between reality and fantasy.
She subtly swaps the background photographs for beige textured paper when the protagonist finds himself in a dream world after his unsuccessful butterfly hunt ends with him coming a cropper. The dream contains memories of the snug den where he took his first joyful steps with his fox brothers and sisters. Van de Vendel shows himself to be a master here, deftly leading the reader through the dream and writing in clear sentences about the happiness of small moments of discovery and experiences that excite the senses.
But what is actually happening is that Little Fox, hovering between life and death, is seeing his life pass before his eyes like a film. The story takes a new turn when a human boy zooms into the story on his bike. He knows Little Fox, as the dream tells us, from when the cub got his curious little head stuck in a jar and the boy freed him. Will he save Little Fox again?
‘Curiosity will be the death of you,’ as Little Fox has learned from Father Fox. But is that really true? After all, if you don’t go out to explore, you don’t get to know life and what it’s all about – that is the inspiring message of this colourful story.