#IMWAYR (11/9/2020): The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, as well as two movie adaptation reviews!
YES!!! I am so glad that Biden and Harris have won the U.S. presidency/vice-presidency. I try not to get political on this blog, but it's hard to spotlight and value different perspectives in books when the president is screaming hateful rhetoric for four years straight. Obviously, this win will not solve all of America's problems, and depending on the results of the Senate elections, it may not allow for any real policy improvements, but at least we can sleep at night knowing a reasonable person has the nuclear codes and veto power.
This is an unusual post, because I didn't read a YA book to review for my #IMWAYR-only post this week, so I have a picture book instead: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. I also decided to post two reviews of movie adaptations of books I reviewed a while back. I actually meant to put these up around 3 months ago, but I was going to wait until I had time to watch the movie adaptation of The Hate U Give with my family. I have now conceded that I will never have time to do that, so I am posting these two—perhaps a review of The Hate U Give's movie will be coming soon!
While we're on the topic of movie adaptations of books, two quick complaints:
- Well, they finally forced Johnny Depp out of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies (a spin-off of the Harry Potter books)—it took them long enough. However, the franchise is still wildly problematic: J.K. Rowling is still a raging transphobe, Ezra Miller (yes, I know he was in one of the movies I am reviewing below) may or may not have attacked someone on the street, and there was the whole Nagini thing that you can just read about here. I liked the first movie back when it was in theaters, but at this point, the whole series just needs to be canceled.
- Remember when I was excited for the new adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches? Well, they decided to go the ableist route and just ruin the whole thing by equating "less than 5 fingers" with "terrifying witch." Great choice, y'all. (Not.) Warner Bros. and Anne Hathaway (who played the witch) had to apologize after an Internet outcry. So maybe don't see that movie either. (Especially since it has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is basically a longer-than-average picture book (128 pages with very few words) that has gained an enormous amount of notoriety in the year it has been available—back before the pandemic happened, I remember going into Barnes & Noble and seeing an entire table covered solely in copies of this book! I never knew what this book was about until I received it as a gift and read it, and I can say that part of why I didn't know what it was about is because it isn't really about much. This book chronicles a boy, a mole, a fox, and a horse traveling through the wilderness. The boy is curious, the mole is a voracious eater of cake (aren't we all?), the fox is quiet, and the horse is wise. We watch the four characters travel through various beautiful illustrations as they discuss life, love, and friendship.
Although this book is, in some ways, reminiscent of a fairy tale or storybook from long ago, it is definitely a unique story all its own! The illustrations of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse are very unique and quite beautiful. Author/illustrator Charlie Mackesy's illustrations and hand-written text often look spontaneous and sketch-like (many illustrations look like that of the cover, although a number of them are monochrome). Instead of being immersive, the illustrations are unabashedly part of a story, which only serves to make them more lovable. A few illustrations are in full color and are quite beautiful; one, which depicts the night sky in two shades, is (sorry to be pretentious) very reminiscent of a Mark Rothko painting. Some of the pages use their illustrations to be quite funny; a page about imperfection is covered in the prints of the author's dog, which accidentally walked over it, thus proving the point! The illustrations are unlike those of any picture book I have ever seen, and I think many of you will find them truly beautiful! (Look at this Amazon page if you want to see more of them.)
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has basically no plot and not much in the way of characters: besides the illustrations, it relies on moral lessons to impact the reader. Basically every sentence is some kind of moral, and I will be honest that many of them come across (at least to me) as overused platitudes. There's ideas about kindness, forgiveness, internal struggles, perfection, and more, but they are all short, quick sentences that do not get any real exploration. I found a few of them to be original, but I found many more to be the sort of thing I've already learned, in far greater depth, in the countless books I've read previously. I realize that this is a picture book, and, age-wise, I am obviously not in the usual picture book audience, but the author writes in the foreword that "This book is for everyone, whether you are eighty or eight," and this book has been popular among a wide age range of readers. I expected a little more depth, or a moving sort of plot; what I got felt a bit like an advice book.
My opinion about The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is not a definitive one by any means; many people, who I'll presume are quite knowledgeable and thoughtful, have declared their absolute love for this book. I was not the most enormous fan of this book, but I believe that many people, especially younger readers, will love the illustrations and find the moral messages novel and worthy of exploration throughout older age. You might consider reading this book with your children or grandchildren, or giving them a copy to read with someone else. At the end of the day, this book is unabashedly unique, beautiful, and occasionally quite thoughtful, and it is definitely worth checking out further!
Update (11/30/2020): My rating is: Pretty good!
Reviews of Two Movie Adaptations: