Monday, September 17, 2018

Friends 4-Ever? The Party and Other Stories (Fox and Chick) by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox is happily harvesting his garden, thoughts of a hearty homemade soup ahead, when Chick appears, ready, as ever, to opine.

"Foxes are supposed to eat field mice, not carrots!"

"I don't like to eat field mice," Fox answers amiably.

Fox moves on to his onion and potato patch. Chick persists in his lecture, remarking pointedly that foxes are supposed to eat frogs and moles, not onions and potatoes, and adds grasshoppers, chipmunks, squirrels, lizards, and little birds to his list of appropriate foxy foods. Fox looks lustily at Chick with an appropriately toothy grin.

"Little birds??"

Ooops! Chick makes himself suddenly scarce, as Fox exits, chuckling slyly, page right, with his veggies in his basket.

In the title story, "The Party," Fox is reading happily inside his cozy cottage when Chick knocks loudly, asking to use his bathroom. Fox politely shows him to the proper door and is soon lost again in his book. Much later he notices that hours have passed and after inquiring politely he opens the door, finding the window open (and broken) and Chick hosting a riotous pool party in his bathtub for some invading frogs, mice, a duck or two, and a mole. Fox indignantly shows the invaders to the front door.

"I guess he didn't mean it when he said I could use his bathroom," Chick complains.

In his latest about his unlikely pair, Fox and Chick: The Party: and Other Stories (Chronicle Books, 2018), this inspired installment in his series about that odd couple of frienemies hits all the marks for beginning readers. Ruzzier brings back his unlikely duo, the patient, no-drama, straight man Fox, the foil for his thoughtless and downright goofy neighbor Chick. Ruzzier perfectly captures the trope of the patient, long-suffering friend and his persistent preschooler-ish partner, delineated so well in Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad easy readers and Bonnie Becker's A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse) and sequels. Artist Ruzzier's graphic skills are evident in his minimalist drawings, in which a few deft lines impart expression flawlessly. Despite Fox's understated, stoical reserve set against Chick's loopy just-hatched cluelessness, Ruzzier's narration has an easy, wry sophistication, abetted by his comic book-styled framed illustrations which pace the story for maximum giggle quotients, great for read-alouds or for early readers alike.

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