Review Blog

Mar 31 2017

Fox and the jumping contest by Corey R. Tabor

cover image

Balzer and Bray, 2016. ISBN 9780062398741
The animals are having a jumping contest - Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered - and Fox is determined he will win. He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.
But Fox isn't particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance. So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds. His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won't notice - so it is clear that he knows he is cheating.
On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents. Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn't do as well and Elephant less so. Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular. And then it was Fox's turn . . .
This is a story with a twist, and it's a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can't wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.
But does Fox deserve it? Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does 'compromise' mean?
Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it. For example, Elephant doesn't mind that she cannot jump well because she is "good at other things" and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair. Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.
Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.
One to get brains moving . . .
Barbara Braxton

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