Kate Pankhurst experiences ‘illustrator envy’ reading Jane, the Fox and Me written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.
This graphic novel set off my ‘illustrator envy’ alarm button and the story of Héléne, a bullied teenager who finds escapism in the world of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, is beautifully poignant, truthful and hopeful. It’s an illustrated book where the words and pictures complement each other perfectly.
The illustrations are stunning on lots of levels. Firstly, the characters are just so well observed (as I say, ‘illustrator envy’ alarm). They are stylised, but their bodies have depth and move in such an expressive and human way that when, for example, Héléne is walking home from school lonely, lost and friendless, you really feel that.
There are lots of clever visual storytelling devices used too – where Héléne feels most lonely, at school, the illustrations reflect that using lots of white space. Colour is used sparingly to reflect glimmers of hope and Héléne’s growing confidence, and there are some wordless double page spreads that will make your heart melt a bit.
After re-reading the book I need to sharpen my pencils and play with rubbers, shading and line (you’ll see what I mean if you get hold of a copy)!
Kate Pankhurst’s latest book, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History (9781408878903) is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, £6.99.
Jane, the Fox and Me (9781406353044) written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is published by Walker Books, £15.