Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Game of Fox and Squirrels

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A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese. Grades 5-8. Henry Holt, 2020. 224 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Eleven-year-old Sam and her older sister Caitlin have just arrived in Oregon to stay with their aunt and her wife after an incident shattered their family in California. Sam misses her parents and is desperate to get back to her life in LA and start school with all her friends. She knows things weren't always the best with her family, but she was managing fine, thank you, and she doesn't want to be here in Oregon. 

So when a talking fox appears to her with a deal, Sam agrees. She'll do what the fox asks in order to earn the Golden Acorn that will grant her one wish - a wish for things to go back to how they were before. But somehow the rules keep changing and Sam will have to figure out how far she will go to please the fox and what she is willing to sacrifice. 

This is a dark magical tale about a girl navigating life with a foster family after being removed from her abusive home. Sam's game with the fox and his squirrel emissaries mirrors the game she played for years with her abusive father. She never know when the rules will change or what will set him off or what she might have to sacrifice next. This isn't an easy read, but it's a powerful read and could be a necessary read for some. I don't have a ton of knowledge about foster kids, but I have a little bit and what I read rings true with my experiences (such as they are). 


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Pair this with another stellar book that came out this year, Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, which offers a similarly searing, but realistic take on abuse and foster care life.