Marco the Fox has questions; questions like ‘Why do some songs make you happy and others make you sad?’. The other foxes are not interested, so when the Antlered Ships sails into harbour, Marco joins the motley crew; his quest to find the answers. It will be a journey fraught with danger – and at the end will Marco find what he is looking for? Or will he find that it is in fact better to be surprised.
Dashka Slater takes the reader out of the real world into that of the imagination as her characters, a fox, deer and a group of pigeons sail across turbulent seas in search of a island with tall grass and sweet trees – and foxes to befriend Marco. The questions that trouble Marco are just the sort that children will ask – ‘Why is water wet?’ But as Marco finds out, it is not the answer but the exploration that brings satisfaction and companionship.
The fantasy of the storyline is grounded by the realism of the illustrations by the Fan Brothers. Marco is a real fox depicted with precision so that one can feel the softness of his coat. However, there is no dislocation between reality and fantasy since the animals sport bandanas and (in the case of the pirates) tricorne hats while the ship with its antlers is the perfect vehicle to bridge the divide. Verging on the whimsical, the concise narrative combines with the lush images to create a satisfying experience to stimulate the young imagination.