The Fox on the Swing written by Evelina Daciūtė and illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaitė is translated into English from Lithuanian. It is quirky, odd, unexpected, and delightful.
This book is charming and unique. The text is chatty and clever. The fonts change and morph into the illustrations creating a seamless and interesting blend between word and picture. There is a LOT going on here: in the copy, the humorous and detailed illustrations, and in the meaning of the story. It is a story about finding happiness, dealing with loss, moving and change. That’s a lot to fit into a picture book and perhaps why it’s a bit long. But I think it’s perfect for older readers to stretch their vocabulary and appreciate the metaphors. It would be a wonderfully fun read aloud to younger children who would love finding all the details and jokes in the illustrations.
Paul is a boy who lives in a very tall tree with his mother who makes orange pots, and his father, who flies the pots in his orange helicopter to the city to sell. They are happy.
Everyday Paul goes to the bakery to buy rolls. One day he notices a fox swinging on a swing. Paul and the fox eventually become good friends. The fox is full of witty sayings from her wise ancestors (these are both profound and funny). When Paul tells the fox that he is moving and doesn’t want to go, the fox replies,
“My Father, who was a very wise fox always said that it takes time to know when something is good,” the fox said to Paul.
“Imagine a cake with cream inside. You might not bite into the cream right away. But only get to it after a few bites. If you keep eating, the cake will taste better and better.”
And so Paul moves away to a taller tree with a bigger helicopter. He isn’t happy and questions why his family had to change things when they were “happy enough.”
Eventually, Paul goes down a literal ‘new path’ on his way home from the new, even bigger bakery, and discovers his dear friend fox swinging on a swing in Paul’s new neighborhood.
Because as the fox told Paul earlier,
“When I need to be somewhere else, that’s where I’ll go.”
Happiness is most often orange things… especially a fox!