Some children’s books today rely on bathroom humor in order to be entertaining to young readers. This is a sad testament of where books have headed the past few years. But, that’s how the times have changed and keep changing. Sometimes it is nice to return to simpler times to try to recapture the innocence of childhood.
Recently, while sorting through books of my youth, I came across Aki and the Fox by Akiko Hayashi and immediately felt nostalgic.
Aki and the Fox
The story, released in 1989 in Japan and 1991 as an English translation, is delightful for young children while the illustrations may induce laughter for older individuals. If you’re looking for a piece of nostalgia, Aki and the Fox may be for you!
The story opens with plushie fox Kon waiting for new-baby Aki to come home. The narration opens with him thinking about where he came from and what he misses, then shifts to his relationship with young Aki. This section goes by quickly, but helps to set the tone for how important Aki is to Kon as the two grow.
The story shifts to show how important Kon is to Aki after stuffing pops out of his arm and they adventure to Aki’s grandmother’s home. They meet several issues along the way, especially since Kon seems to be quite the unlucky fox!
Hayashi’s writing is simple and innocent, so children will not have a hard time understanding what’s happening. What I like is how the writing isn’t dumbed down. The narrative is engaging since Hayashi breathes life into Kon and Aki, giving them individual personalities that complement each other and help drive the story forward.
The book’s theme is also something parents and children can relate to as they go through the tale. Parents may see the story is about Aki and Kon’s solo quest to grandma’s house as a journey of independence. Parents may be reminded of how their kids are growing up and may soon be doing things on their own and figuring out solutions much like Aki and Kon.
For young people, the theme of independence may help kids see how to figure out situations for themselves even though today’s children may not relate to solo rides on trains and going to grandma’s house alone. If parents take the time to discuss the story’s actions and how to react in scary situations, then the story’s point can be driven home further.
Friendship is the other theme. The book covers how true friends will be there for each other no matter the situation. In an age where many friendships are disposable when things get rough, Aki and Kon weather the storm. Aki and the Fox can show young people how important friendship is and that no matter how bad things get, being a true, helpful friend can mean the world to someone.
The book’s soft colors are peaceful and attractive for all readers, recalling drawing styles of days gone by where hand-drawn pieces captivated the storybook and animation world. The action depicted in each scene is easy for young readers to grasp while older readers and parents may chuckle at the images portraying poor Kon in unfortunate situations!
The amount of detail in even the simplest of drawings will amaze! Each person has a unique face; sand looks wavy and grainy; and trains and people have movement. Hayashi strikes a balance between complex situations and child-friendly faire with her use of soft features and bold colors. A reader’s eye will surely want to scan the pages to see everything each has to offer.
Aki and the Fox by Akiko Hayashi should be considered “an oldie but goody” by many. It is a book that should be shared with children of all ages, because of its simplicity and themes of friendship and independence.
The one downfall for Aki and the Fox is how difficult it is to find! The book, sadly, is out of print, which is an injustice in the world of children’s publishing, but it does exist in the worlds of Amazon and eBay as a used library book available for purchase. A quick trip to WorldCat or even a library’s InterLibrary Loan (ILLiad) system will help you track the book down for borrowing. If you have young children or you’re just nostalgic for an adorable children’s story, track down Aki and the Fox. You will not regret it!
– Joelle Halon