Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
The Fox's City is another masterful children's book that stands as an example of why Tuula Pere is perhaps our most prolific children's author. It is so unconventional and takes quite a bit of risks. These have become staples of Tuula Pere, someone who seems unafraid of taking risks and going to a much darker place (for children's books).
While this book doesn't feature anything adult, it follows quite a malicious and power-hungry character named Francis, a fox. Now, Francis isn't pure evil, but he certainly qualifies as a villain. Interestingly, this is one of those rare works of fiction in which the main protagonist is also the main villain. It reminds us of The Final Days of Doggerland in that sense.
Francis is a very interesting character because a lot of his villainous acts seem to stem from qualities that many would find admirable: ambition and determination. He may also suffer from some insecurity, growing up with the self-inflicted idea that he could never have enough or be good enough. His mother constantly reminded him that he was loved and that he had enough stuff, but he willingly ignored her and doesn't seem to care much when he moves on from her household.
It might be hard to believe, but some children are like this when moving out or going to college. Heck, some of us were like that. When you're coming of age, there's a sense of liberation and of limitless possibilities. That's perhaps what Francis the Fox feels.
However, Francis the Fox has really deep seated issues. Francis was a bully for much of his life. When he and the other animals would play at recess, he would give himself unfair advantages like picking all of the good players to be on his team. Now as an adult, he is driven to succeed at all costs.
To that end, he manipulates a town mayor into giving up his office to him in a sort of soft coupe, sending the mayor (a wolf) on “vacation” on an island. He cuts off communication with the mayor by capturing all of the carrier pigeons who send messages. He uses a huge soccer event to further himself by rewriting the anthem or “cheer” to praise him. He hires unscrupulous coyotes from another town to play for his team because they are “aggressive” and will do what it takes to win. He also seals the carrier pigeons in the attic of the library and controls the key, thus keeping others from accessing the library (knowledge). He becomes increasingly megalomaniacal, greedy, and power-hungry. He basically becomes a fascist dictator.
Now, controversially, it doesn't seem like he gets much of a comeuppance. He is removed from power, yes, but instead of being thrown in jail or exiled, the old mayor actually uses this opportunity to show Francis things like mercy, compassion, kindness, contentedness, and teamwork, almost like a father. That almost makes us wonder about Mother Fox's home. It seems as though Francis grew up without a father figure and that may have influenced him. That isn't explicitly stated, but some readers may be able to imply that.
We really enjoyed this book. It shocked and surprised us. Furthermore, the art by Andrea Alemanno is among the best in a Tuula Pere book. The illustrations capture the expressions of characters very well, and the animal characters are pleasant to look at.
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