Wells’ winsome animal characters are charming, as always, but her latest effort lacks coherence and depth.
The casual, colloquial tone suits the simple tale beautifully. Stella, a fox child, lives a happy life, secure in her parents’ love and seemingly unaware of her straitened circumstances. She loves her small, shiny trailer home, enjoys spending time with her mother and looks forward to her father’s weekly return on Sundays. Then some unfriendly weasels point out her poverty. Saddened, Stella tries to keep her emotions hidden, but her mother teases the truth out of her. Unfortunately, instead of allowing Stella to sort things out herself, Wells decides to solve her problems geographically. Stella’s dad hooks up the house trailer and hauls it to another, more welcoming (and tropical) locale, where the new neighbors greet Stella and her home with awe and enthusiasm. The abrupt ending may leave listeners wondering exactly what happened. They’re also likely to be confused by the contrast between scenes that suggest a mid-20th-century rural setting and the inline skates and baggy pants sported by the weasels. Overall, however, the variously sized mixed-media illustrations are captivating, featuring lush forests, starry nights, expressive faces and delightful details.
Fans of Wells’ work will likely embrace Stella’s story, but some may wish she’d been allowed to confront her problems rather than just running away from them. (Picture book. 5-8)