Children get their first lesson in unrequited love reading the letters between lovelorn Ox and self-centered Gazelle.
To say that Gazelle is a narcissist is putting it mildly. And Ox? Well, ever heard the saying big, dumb ox? Ox, depicted in a white shirt with trousers held up by suspenders, begins the exchange by expressing his admiration for Gazelle and her graceful movements. A turn of the page reveals his correspondent’s answer: a form letter and signed glossy stuffed in an envelope by her assistant while Gazelle, clad in a flapper-style dress, lies on a chaise longue gazing in a mirror. Ox doesn’t see it as a form letter, though, and thanks her for responding personally. Her reply? The same form letter, which Ox takes as a sign of her tidy mind. The letters degrade from there, going from a discussion of Gazelle’s faults (or lack thereof) to a letter stating outright that she could never love a “smelly thing…an animal that is…so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.” Ox loves her even more for admitting this fault to him. This frustrates Gazelle, who rips his picture to shreds. But the next page shows the start of a letter to him; she sits under his pieced-back-together picture, her heart seemingly softened. Campbell’s watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork uses old-fashioned, muted tones, patterns, and background details. Gazelle is elegant and haughty. Ox is moony and down-to-earth.
Persistence pays off seems to be the message in this bracingly un-Valentine–ish love story. (Picture book. 4-8)