I’ve been a fan of graphic novels for years, but I usually booktalk them like standard fiction books and keep the covers closed. However, Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt was a very unique case. That’s because the book is larger than most, sturdier than most, and the artwork by Isabelle Arsenault is more unique than most. So I just HAD to highlight the artwork in my booktalk.
When I’m introducing each of the characters at the beginning of the booktalk, I’m pointing to each of their faces on the cover. When I say, “This is what Helene’s world looks like in real life,” I’m holding the book open to pages 14-15. These are black and white drawings showing Helene looking unhappy and alone, both inside at school and outside at a bus stop. And then when I say, “But THIS is what the world looks like whenever she starts reading Jane Eyre,” I’m holding the book open to pages 28-29. These pages show examples of how the artwork shifts to a more colorful and detailed style, as Jane is hugged by a little girl in one scene and speaks to Mr. Rochester in another.
Oh, and in an entertaining side-note, when I was holding up those pages during a recent class visit, a sharp-eyed seventh grader pointed at the book and shouted, “Hey, I see the fox!” Because yes, there is a fox in Mr. Rochester’s study that is a visual foreshadowing of the fox that Helene will meet in real life.
This is Helene. She’s having a really bad year at school. The girls who were her friends last year have decided that they’re not going to be her friends any more. They’ve also decided that she’s fat and ugly, and they make fun of her whenever they can.
This is the fox. Helene will meet him later.
This is Jane, and she’s the main character in a book called Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When Helene is feeling sad and lonely, she starts reading this book. And then suddenly, whenever Helene starts reading, her whole world changes.
This is what Helene’s world looks like in real life. This is the world in which she’s sad and lonely, in which the girls who used to be her friends now make fun of her.
But THIS is what the world looks like whenever she starts reading Jane Eyre. Now Jane was plain, and poor, and she didn’t have any friends, either. But still, she found love, and that love changed the direction of her life.
The more Helene reads Jane Eyre, the more her own life is going to change.