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A Family of Foxes





a family of foxesA few months back I picked up this book at a library sale because the title rang a bell.  Had I seen this on a book list somewhere?  I couldn't remember, but I'm glad I paid the .50 for it.  It was a splendid read-aloud for my children.
Picturesque setting of A Family of Foxes - a peninsula on the northernmost part of Ireland
The story is about the adventures of 4 boys who rescue 2 silver foxes that were en route to a zoo when the boat they were on sank.  How those boys hid the foxes (the islanders thought foxes were evil) and nurtured them is an exciting story.  Natural history, geography, ethics - for such a short book, there is a lot here!  
File:Silberfuchs 06.jpg
stunning silver fox - the type rescued in the book
The author, Eilis Dillon, was asked why she wrote the story.  Here is her reply:

      "When I was very small, we lived in a big house out in the country. A great long winding avenue led up to it, with old trees. Behind the house there was a farmyard where we kept a donkey and trap, a dog, several cats, some hens and ducks, as well as two goats. The cow lived in a paddock beyond the farmyard and only came in to be milked.
     I was afraid of the cow and the donkey, not because they were fierce but because of their size. The goats were frightening too, because they were rough. They came prancing at you with their horned heads down and you had to skip out of the way. What I really liked were the hens and ducks. They were peaceful creatures, a reasonable size, reaching only up to my knees.
      One evening I heard the servants in the kitchen talking about the fox that had come and taken away the hens. I was very shocked at the idea that an animal could take away such a big thing as a hen, and I remember the half-whispering way they talked about it, as if it were a very terrifying business. For a long time afterwards I was afraid of foxes, though I could not imagine what they looked like. They must be fierce and wicked and bloodthirsty. I remember skipping up the stairs in the dusk, afraid of feeling a fox snapping at my ankles.
  Then at last I saw a real fox. He looked so small and neat and he moved so elegantly that I had to change all my ideas about foxes. His slanted eyes were very intelligent, so that later still, when I found that the island people around Galway Bay believed that foxes had powers of witch-craft, I could understand why they gave them this reputation. There were many such beliefs, some of which I described in A FAMILY OF FOXES. It seemed a shame to think so ill of such delightful creatures. I think this is why I wrote the story, in defence of foxes. I hope you will enjoy it. It was the first book that I really enjoyed writing, from beginning to end."

From joy to joy,
Nancy

P.S. - Personally, I was interested in the glass balls that the boys coveted.  After we read that part, no fewer than 2 magazines that came into our house featured those balls (which were used to help keep nets afloat) as collectible antiques!

17 comments:

  1. Where was the story set. Those glass balls continue to wash ashore in the islands of Alaska to this day. They are from the nets on Japanese fishing boats. We have two glued onto driftwood as our memento from our time in Alaska. It sounds like a great book!!

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    1. Tammy,
      There is a picture at the beginning of the post of the location - Inishowan, Ireland. That is too funny that you have some from Alaska! In the book, there are all sorts of superstitions surrounding those balls. When you get a chance, send me a pic of your memento - or put it on fb!
      Thanks,
      Nancy

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  2. I love great findings, and those connections so timely.

    Hugs,

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  3. So fun to read this blog when we have just started learning "The Fox" for folk song :)

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    1. I KNOW!!! Just another unforced connection! And having a comment on my blog from you - priceless!

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  4. I am putting together some books about Ireland for my children so this is good timing for me on that count. What level of reading would you say this book is? And do you have any other suggestions re a book list about Ireland?

    I really appreciate your blog. Thank you for taking the time to share both information and the poetry that is you.

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    1. Hmmm. Reading level - upper elementary/middle school. Read aloud level? - all ages!
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  5. yay, for good books!!

    thanks again, nancy, for sharing them with us.
    i love the author note. i can tell just by that, it's a good book!

    :)

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    1. Amy,
      I do love reading those author notes, too!
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  6. In searching for "A Family of Foxes" after I read your post, I found another book by Eilis Dillon call "Living in Imperial Rome" about daily life in Rome in AD 110 under Emperor Trajan. I wondered if anyone is familiar with this book? I'm just starting it, but so far it's quite good!

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    1. I had never even heard of Eilis before this book! I did think about looking for a few more titles. Please let me know what you think of the title you are reading!

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  7. So, I guess I was imagining that Family of Foxes would be just a sweet read. Now that I've read it I have to say that I think it's an almost perfect book. The adventure. The glimpse into a different culture. The way the author so clearly remembers what it feels like to be a child. Humour. The foxes themselves. The surprise (spoiler alert) of the babies. The quiet, knowing teacher. Ahh. This is the kind of book that makes me want to be more ruthless about what's on our shelves. Thank you.

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  8. I just saw this post, so went over to paperback swap to see if they had it. They don't, but they do have three other books by the same author (Wild Geese, Children of Bach, and Blood Relations). I wonder what they would be like.... :) I found an article written by Mrs. Dillon's son, which talks about the different novels she wrote and a little history of her life. (http://www.ruemorguepress.com/authors/dillon.html)

    Sorry if this digresses too far from your original post, Nancy; I enjoy reading your blog and always come upon good titles to read. Hopefully, I'll have the chance to come upon A Family of Foxes.

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    1. Dear Beth,
      Not at all! That's a fascinating bit you linked to - thank you! Let me know if you read any of her other works.
      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  9. Just got my copy of "A Family of Foxes" in the mail. Very excited to read this with my son. I want to give it to him to read on his own, but I just can't stand to not be reading it with him.

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    1. Dear Kay,
      Just enjoy it! Let me know what you think of it, too.
      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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