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The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith is more than just your average picture book. It’s an experience that you take in slowly and thoughtfully, and that is one hundred percent due to how Bickford-Smith designs her images. She manages to control the pace at which her readers turn the page by alternating between thick white borders…
…and full-page bleeds.
The full-page bleed, essentially, causes a disruption in the flow of the book but in the best possible way. There’s a sense of awe at the nighttime sky, causing us to give pause and watch it stretch past the pages’ borders. Even the book cannot contain such a magnificent scene.
Bickford-Smith uses this technique only a handful of times to emphasize specific moments and textures in the story, so the consistency in design throughout the book raised some interesting questions for me about the ending. One of the final spreads features the fox standing in the middle of the stark-white page, framed only by the borders of the book. There is no environment around the fox, nothing that tethers him to the real world. It’s palpable that something significant is happening here, mere pages before the book is through. Together with the second to last spread, which shows the fox about to walk beyond the borders of the book, and the final image of the silhouetted fox with star patterning over his body, it feels to me like the story cuts a little deeper and represents something more tragic.
The fox’s journey is a beautiful, yet painful, metaphor for mourning and loss, but with the added twist that the fox never actually seems to move beyond his depression. He eventually expires looking for the star, and the end of the story represents a failed attempt to move past mourning. The fox and star can only be reunited—and literally become one—when the fox joins the star in the night sky. Or, as I see it, when the fox dies.
Like I said, a beautiful and painful story.
If you’ve read this book, I would LOVE to know what your takeaways were. I know mine were quite sad, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss your (hopefully happier) interpretations!
*All images in this post provided by the publisher from THE FOX AND THE STAR by Coralie Bickford-Smith, published on November 10, 2015 by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright by Coralie Bickford-Smith, 2015