This review originally appeared on the AOI blog.
Outfoxed introduces us to Harold, a young fox who yearns to be a detective and only ever eats cheese. One day Harold’s dad decides it’s time for him to get his head out of his detective stories, get outside and catch a chicken like a proper fox.
Harold’s eager to show his dad that he’s got what it takes, and he easily finds a coop full of chickens and catches one, but then on the return journey he strikes up a conversation with the chicken which leads to him having a mild existential crisis, and while he’s distracted the chicken vanishes. Dad’s not happy that the chicken’s gone missing, and so next day Harold plays detective to try and track it down. When he returns to the last place he saw the chicken he deduces it was stolen, and the chase is on to try and track down the thieves’ responsible, rescue the chicken, and save the day.
This is a beautifully made little book. It’s smaller than a standard picture book, printed on thick matte paper, and with no end-papers the story pages fill the whole book from front to back cover. The artwork is colourful and vibrant, with lots of textures and patterns giving it a hand-made collaged feel, though occasionally it can be a little overwhelming, and once or twice I had to go back to look for something I’d missed on the previous page. At one point I thought I’d missed a page by accident, but that wasn’t the case. The story had skipped from one scene to another without any further elaboration, which, together with the thickness of the paper, was a bit confusing.
The book’s aimed at around ages 5–7, which seems about right. I read it to my three children, who are ranged 3–7, and they all enjoyed the story without any questions. I would have liked to have seen Harold’s investigation expanded on in a bit more detail – one of my favourite bits was the questioning of potential suspects – and I can’t help but think that, at the end, Harold made a bit of a problem for himself in future.
Simon took our initial concept to very loose script and created a list of illustrations we needed to make our whiteboard video simply work. He delivered the first few illustrations in sketch form, and we knew he was going to nail it. On budget and on time every step of the way, Simon was not only a genius illustrator but a lovely person to work with. He has a talent for taking the everyday and making it sing. He delighted our audience with his clever and cute characters, and went beyond what we thought was even possible. We'd work with him again in a heartbeat. Jennifer del Greco, pndu.org