I am so torn. I want to say I loved this book, this story. But something about reading a book to a young child that features another young child running off into the woods by herself to reach her favorite place, ultimately ending up alone in the dark wood at night seriously bothers me. This is a great story with a great message and beautiful artwork, but it is not one I would read to a child. Honestly, Meet Me By The Sea by Taltal Levi is more fit for adults.
The main character in this book begins her story by feeling ignored, sad, and frustrated. Instead of talking out those feelings with her parents (which is reasonable for a child), she decides to take a trip to her favorite place: the sea. So, she bundles herself up, packs her bag, and sets out into the day. Her journey takes her all the way into nighttime where she bundles up in a sleeping bag in the middle of the woods.
Come morning, she wakes up to a visitor.
Now, it’s fairly obvious that this is meant to be a happy story with a lesson learned. The ending is easy to guess. And some reviews have already mentioned such. But, I have to ask, is it really good to be reading a book to children that suggests nothing bad will come of running off if you feel like you’re being ignored?
I had an incredibly difficult time wrapping my head around that message. And it’s not that I wanted anything bad to happen to the main character. Rather, I find myself feeling anxious for any kid who does take that unintentional message to heart.
It should come as no surprise, really, that I requested this book solely because I noticed the fox on its cover. And I love him so dearly. The artwork in this book is pretty fantastic, but the fox is the one who stole my breath away. There was a particular illustration that just pulled at my heart, the wide eyed curious gaze of the fox so emotionally gripping. I loved the way he was introduced, included throughout the child’s journey. It was perfect and adorable.
Of course, the characters and settings were lovely as well. As far as I’m concerned, though, the fox is the one who stole the show.
Who is this book for?
I honestly found myself asking this question numerous times while reading it. Who, truly, is the intended audience? I don’t think this book teaches young children anything valuable. In fact, I think it does exactly the opposite. It has bright colors and gorgeous illustrations that, sure, kids will like. But, ultimately, I can’t figure out why this would be a good book for a young audience.
At the end of the day, I genuinely just feel like it isn’t. The intended message isn’t one that is meant to reach the understanding of a child. The message is for the parents, the adults who are so busy with their lives that they forget to spend time with their children. The story isn’t trying to teach a kid something, but rather trying to teach the parents. We follow the journey through the eyes of a young girl, but she is not representative of who the author is speaking to.
In the end, I did really enjoy reading this book. I loved the story and I loved the art. I loved the message. And I loved the fox.
But I don’t think this is a book for kids. And I would not read it to them.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.