94+/100 (9.4+ out of 10)
This is no exaggeration: The Fox's Tower by Tuula Pere may have been the most anticipated sequel that we've ever read! The first book The Fox's City was a previous grand-prize winner (scoring our highest rating for a children's book) and featured one of our favorite characters ever: Francis the Fox.
Francis was named “Best Character” and “Best Villain” in our winter 2023 contest. So, needless to say, Francis was a character that we really loved (and despised) and look forward to revisiting.
Who is Francis? Francis can best be described as an overly-ambitious, megalomaniacal, Machiavellian fox who always strives to achieve more and more and more, often to his detriment and those around him. Francis is far from a good character or role-model, yet he has some traits that are admirable. He is creative, ambitious, driven, hard-working, clever and an overachiever. Unfortunately, he's also cunning, manipulative, egotistical, and often selfish. Francis aspires to greatness—a greatness above and beyond everyone else in his vicinity—and he longs to accomplish this by any means necessary.
Francis, in a lot of ways, is a cautionary tale of how not to go about things in reaching your goals. You shouldn't take advantage of people, manipulate people (and situations), and ignore sound advice by wise and experienced people.
In the previous book we read (apparently there's a 2nd one in between this regarding a failed beach project), William the Wolf—the mayor—took Francis under his wing, forgave his trespasses, and tried to teach him how to be a better person and a better leader.
What seems really unfortunate is that William's forbearance and mentorship of Francis seems all for nothing since Francis is the same scheming, cunning, conniving fox he was in the previous book, he's just bigger and older.
Now, this isn't without precedence. In the first book, Francis ignored the urges and lessons from his mom to be good and to control his ambitions. So, we know that this is something that Francis often does.
In this book, Francis repeatedly ignores the warnings and urges of the most experienced foreman in the city, Bernie the Badger. Bernie is adamant about following the plan (the “blueprint”) rather than doing things on the fly and impulsively as Francis does.
Francis's dangerous impulsivity and recklessness are on full display in this book as he is driven to secretly change plans without telling anyone to advance his personal ambitions. This includes pulling support structures and materials from the walls and floors to build higher, his ultimately goal being to build the tallest tower in the city, one that reaches as high as the city's pigeons fly. He ignores or refuses to acknowledge the fact that he's slowly eroding the structural integrity and stability of the lower floors, essentially removing the tower's foundation in exchange for a few extra floors.
Parents and teachers alike can talk to their children about making good choices rather than being impulsive and only doing what they want to do all the time. This is especially applicable to children who tend to be impulsive and who think of themselves as “invincible.” Children can learn to do a cost to risk assessment and evaluate if taking a risk is worth their health/safety or not.
Once again, we were extremely impressed by the characters and the deeper, more nuanced things going on. We were also once again impressed by the art, which is among the best in a Tuula Pere book.
Now, we will say that we wished that Francis's character would develop more, and that his arc/development in the previous book was more respected. He doesn't seem to have learned his lesson.
Also, the ending of the book, while expected, is also quite abrupt. Francis is left speechless, and then the book concludes. The audience is left to assume what may have happened afterward or if he finally learned his lesson.
All in all, this is such a great book and series.
Check it out on Amazon!