Friday, June 26, 2015

by Margaret Wild 
Pictures by Ron Brooks

This picture book as a mentor text  is definitely for older students-maybe 4th grade—definitely 5th and 6th graders.  The depth of different themes for discussion that can be derived from this story are many... and at a mature level. 

Fascinating illustrations—students and teachers should look carefully at them from the beginning of the book to help understand the story.  Text is interestedly hand written—almost childlike--adding to the fascinating story.

Awards: Fox has won multiple awards in Australia, where the author and illustrator are from.

Book Talk
The story opens with the illustrations showing Dog running with Magpie in his mouth and a fire raging in the background.  The readers also get a hint of Fox in the background, as well. 

Dog rescues Magpie from the fire, but we quickly learn that Magpie has an injured wing and can no longer fly.  Magpie is deeply saddened and angry about it.

Dog—who is blind in one eye—is generous and kind with a beautiful positive attitude about life. He gently takes care of Magpie, nursing her back to health. He then has an idea and encourages Magpie to hop on his back. His idea?  As he runs, she would be able to feel like she is flying!!  Magpie is resistant at first, but finally gives it a try.

Both Dog and Magpie are thrilled and thoroughly enjoy the partnership and friendship that develops between them. He runs and she feels like she is flying. She verbalizes what she sees so that the Dog could also ‘see’.  This activity continued over a several seasons and the friendship and loyalty between the two deepens.

A favorite line: “Dog runs so swiftly, it is almost as if he were flying. Magpie feels the wind streaming through her feathers and she rejoices. ‘Fly, Dog, Fly! I will be your missing eye, and you will be my wings!’ “

Then, in the springtime Fox formally enters the story. Dog, with his generous and hospitable spirit, invites Fox to stay with he and Magpie, but Magpie does not trust Fox and is reluctant to accept Fox as part of their ‘family’. Magpie knows that Fox watches her all the time. This, of course, makes Magpie extremely uncomfortable. Magpie mentions this to Dog, but Dog encourages her to be accepting of Fox.

Fox, then begins to try to entice Magpie to go with him.  He says that he can run faster than Dog and she will really feel like she is flying.  Magpie stays loyal to Dog and tries to ignore Fox, but she finally gives in and leaves with Fox while Dog is sleeping.

Indeed, Fox runs like the wind-much faster than Dog and Magpie loves the feel of flying that she gets from being on his back!  Magpie thinks she is happier than she has been in a long time!

Suddenly, deep in the middle of a desolate desert, Fox stops and shakes Maggie off his back. She falls. Fox abruptly turns and trots away-leaving her alone with a rude comment.  The heat is scorching and she is not sure that she can survive.

But then she thinks of Dog, who will be soon waking up without her. She is filled with devotion and loyalty (and guilt for leaving?) for Dog. This inspires her and she starts hobbling home to him.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre:  Animal Fantasy
Reading Workshop strategies: Predicting, Inferring, Synthesizing, Critiquing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Narrative, Elaboration,strong ending
Curricular Themes: Character Ed discussions on friendship,  love and belonging, temptation, risk and betrayal.

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