REVIEW: Fox and The Princess and her Panther

The Princiess and Her Panther by Wendy OrrReviewed by Ann Skea ([email protected]).

Fox is a beautiful book. The rich colours and textures of its illustrations are dramatic and satisfying and the hand lettering is interesting and unusual, although it may be a problem for some early readers. The story it tells is unusual and open-ended in a way that stimulates the imagination.

The story is simple and the language sometimes complex but not daunting. A dog finds a magpie with a broken wing and takes it to his cave to nurse it. Dog has only one eye. Magpie has only one useful wing. Together they help each other. Magpie flies through the air on dogs back and acts as Dog’s missing eye. Then  Fox appears. Fox entices Magpie away and runs with it to the desert where it leaves it to make its own way home. The final illustration is of Magpie jiggety-hopping away from the fiery red sun.

There are lessons here in friendship, loyalty, trust and deception, but nothing is spelled out and the vivid illustrations are a major part of the joy of the book.

Fox was first published ten years ago and has since won numerous awards. This anniversary edition is suitably sumptuous for a book which widely is regarded as an Australian classic.

The Princess and her Panther is a very different kind of picture book but children will identify with the princess and with the panther, both of whom are real children in dress-up clothes.

Fox by Margaret WildThe first illustration shows panther having whiskers painted onto her face, and the garden inside the front and back covers is ordinary and familiar. The story begins one afternoon with an imaginary trip to the desert of the garden sand-pit. Princess is confident. Panther is nervous. The paddling pool becomes a wide blue lake and the garden tree is the wood where Princess pitches her tent. As night falls, the world becomes black, and strange noises begin, Panther tries again and again to be brave. Finally, “Enough is enough”. Panther finds her courage and the frightening, spooky night creatures are banished. The book ends with the sisters and their cat sleeping happily in their tent until morning and breakfast appear.

The story is simple but dramatic and there is plenty to discover in the illustrations on each page. A good bed-time story.

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Copyright © Ann Skea 2010
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