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*Miss Fox* by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Holly Swain
Miss Fox
by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Holly Swain
Ages 3-6 32 pages Frances Lincoln November 2006 Hardcover    

Miss Fox knows exactly what to do, where to go, and what to say to get the job she wants. She may have fooled Head Master Mr. Billy and Class Two with her “I am the most wonderful teacher in the world” proclamations, but she cannot pull wool over Lily Lamb’s eyes.

No wonder the students in Class Two love Miss Fox; she feeds them sweet treats everyday. Doughnuts and iced cupcakes are devoured by everyone except Lily Lamb and Miss Fox. Curiously, Miss Fox doesn’t seem to have a sweet tooth. She does like to tell heroic fox tales though, and they captivate all her non-fox students. Goose, Rabbit, Cow, Pig, and Giraffe all listen attentively to her stories. They don’t even seem to miss being outdoors. As a reward for their good behavior, Miss Fox takes the whole class on a nature walk. But before she knows it, Miss Fox has her nature walk ideas interrupted by Lily Lamb, and it’s a good thing, too.

I love books that surprise me for one reason or another and this book did just that. I have read a lot of children’s picture books, yet I didn’t even see what was coming on the last page. New Zealand-born author Simon Puttock adds a little indestructibility to this classic tale of tricking the trickster. Other books by this author include A Ladder to the Stars and The Day the Baby Blew Away.

Illustrator Holly Swain, born in Canterbury, is the illustrator of the book Dotty Inventions and Some Real Ones Too. Using concentrated watercolors and colored pencils to illustrate Miss Fox, Swain sticks with the theme that appearances can be deceiving. Miss Fox looks all proper and trustworthy in her matching skirt suit, high heels, clasp purse, and lipstick. She waves to strangers and comports herself with a laid-back air. It’s her purse contents, though, that reflect her real thoughts and true self. Even the town of Niceville is drawn to look inviting and safe. A banner welcomes all who enter this quaint town, where homes are built together and shaped hedges and friendly people line the sidewalks.

In Class Two, all the different kinds of animal students get along, too. Dog sits with Duck, and Giraffe sits with Pig. Being dressed like real boys and girls makes the students look all the more innocent. The inhabitants of this town (and the readers of this book) are led to believe nothing bad could happen in this town. When a good deed is performed in town, it’s by resister and rebel Lily Lamb.

With a classroom and schoolyard setting, this book is sure to be recommended and passed around in many schools and school libraries. But parents and children should find a “comfy sort of, cozy sort of place” as found in Niceville and read this book, too.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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