Abuse is a hard topic to deal with, but in A Game of Fox & Squirrels, Jenn Reese does an excellent job of conveying the thoughts and emotions of one young girl. 11 year old Samatha is the protagonist of this story, and through her eyes, we are introduced to a child’s confusion, and a journey to healing.
What I am Reviewing
A Game of Fox & Squirrels is written by Jenn Reese and published by Henry Holt & Company. Geared for middle school readers it runs at 228 pages. I received an ARC version, it sells as a hardcover. This book is being reviewed on behalf of Raincoast Books. Family Abuse and dealing with dysfunctional relationships are the themes of this compelling chapter book for middle school. 21 chapters round out the pages.
A short synopsis: After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were. . . before she spoke up about their father’s anger.
When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.
The Details on A Game of Fox & Squirrel
The author’s sensitivity to this topic is found from the get-go. Her dedication reads: “For everyone lost in the woods: I promise you, there is a way out.”
Samantha, 11 years old, in such a hard position. Having to tell secrets she’d learned to keep quiet about. Feeling trapped and in a new place. Her pain and confusion so very evident.
But there’s the “and yet”. She has an Aunt who knows and cares even if she’s a stranger. Samantha needs to learn who to trust. Is is possible?
Perhaps a game will help her learn.
Each of the 21 chapters opens with a new list of the rules about the Game Fox & Squirrels. In each chapter more of Ashander’s personality emerges. With each chapter Samantha learns more about her options.
The fox is not to be trusted, the fox is a difficult opponent, but with help… perhaps that fox can be defeated!
As one might expect in a game of Fox and Squirrels, riddles abound. Can they be solved? Can the fox be outsmarted? What reward awaits at the end of the game?
So tastefully and well-done. A Game of Fox & Squirrels kept me intrigued throughout, rooting for Samantha to come through in the end. Samantha and her sister walked a hard road, sisters watching out for each other. They needed to be caring for each other when others did not.
With a burden lifted, how does a child survive? Samantha needed to learn this. How to do so wasn’t easy.
There is so much I loved about this story. Being a person with a fine imagination I can totally see a lost 11 year old getting caught up in a game. The magic inherent in a good imagination can help heal a heart when the love of the real world is apparent.
The only caution I add, because it matters, the Aunt is married in a same-gender relationship.