Book Review: Leila and the Blue Fox - An enchanting story
Written by: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Illustrated by: Tom de Freston
Published by: Orion Children's Books
Historical Setting: Modern
Reading age: 9+
“Leila and the Blue Fox” follows the journeys of two enchanting characters, human and animal, as they cross the icy tundra of the Arctic. The first, a girl called Leila who migrated to England from Syria as an infant, visits Norway to reunite with her mother after years of separation. The second, Miso the Arctic fox, follows her instincts to leave her territory in search of something she cannot name and walks thousands of miles to find it.
Leila is enormously relatable as a lead character. Millwood Hargrave has created a young female lead that readers will instantly connect with, no matter their age. The relationship between this pre-teen girl and her estranged mother sways satisfyingly back and forth from resentment and animosity to compassion and understanding. Leila comes across as lovable and imperfectly human. Millwood Hargrave adds small details about Leila, how she feels and how she relates to the world around her, that the reader will easily recognise in themselves.
But Leila is just one of the two title characters in this narrative. The journey of Miso the Arctic fox is elegantly sprinkled through the pages of this captivating book. Miso’s adventure is inspired by the true story of the Arctic fox that walked two thousand miles in just seventy-six days. Miso’s tale is written in a beautifully sparse poetic language. It is a stark contrast to the writing style of Leila’s storyline and is absent of emotion and judgment,
reminding us that this animal relies on its impulses and instincts alone.
The two storylines dance side by side in the book and begin to intertwine. To begin with, it can be a little jarring when we jump suddenly to a very different writing style and from the “she” of Leila to the “she” of Miso the fox. The only indicators of this change of character (and species!) are the writing style and Tom de Freston’s lovely illustrations. But once you get used to the jumps from Leila to Miso, the two stories begin to work together in pleasantly discordant harmony.
Millwood Hargrave uses words to paint vibrant pictures of the landscapes featured in “Leila and the Blue Fox”. Each location is vividly described, the heat and aromas of Syria, the icy perils of the Arctic. Again, Millwood Hargrave observes the tiniest details of each setting. These details breathe life into each environment, making them more than just a backdrop to the story.
The landscapes are further animated by the artwork from Tom de Freston, whose handsome illustrations capture the reader’s imagination. De Freston’s visuals complement Millwood Hargrave’s writing by adding depth of character and emotion. Through de Freston’s illustrations the polar bears appear more menacing, the landscape appears more isolated, and the Arctic fox appears more determined.
“Leila and the Blue Fox” is an enchanting story that grabs the reader and fully immerses them in the dangerous icy paradise of the Arctic. Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s detailed and skilful writing, complemented by Tom de Freston’s captivating illustrations, creates memorable and relatable characters, both human and animal, that you can’t help but fall in love with.
A huge thank you to Orion Children's Books for providing us with a review copy of 'Leila and the Blue Fox.'
To find out more about the book, you can visit Hachette UK's website by clicking here.