A fox named Fred quests for a life away from his native city.
The opening double-page spread features a background of what looks like dark-blue construction paper, foregrounded by the geometrical shapes of a city at night. A slender, orange fox with white feet, oversized head, and large eyes that recall Jon Klassen’s art peers toward the next page. Dark, large words proclaim, “This is Fred. He lived in the middle of a big city.” Readers learn that Fred doesn’t like the smoke, noise, and fast action of the city—unlike his cousins, who happily use Fred as lookout as they attempt to raid some garbage cans. When the inevitable garbage-can fiasco ends, Fred talks to various animals to find out what is beyond the city. He believes there must be something that’s more to his liking, and a bird confirms that a place called “the wild” has wind blowing through trees with spreading branches. Each colorful painting shows the different places the fox encounters as he makes his way from urban to rural—from city outskirts past the harbor and a junkyard and finally into a tunnel. The tunnel spread is engaging: against a totally black background, staring eyes and mottled steppingstones marking a path for the courageous fox stand out. In a nice twist, the ending defies the familiar “no place like home” trope.
There’s lots that appeals: a polite but determined fox, just enough danger, and plenty of colorful art. (Picture book. 3-6)