Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review - Hope and Freckles: Fleeing to a Better Forest

Hope and Freckles: Fleeing to a Better Forest
by Bill Kiley
illustrated by Mary Manning
Date: 2020
Publisher: Mascot Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 38
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Hope, a white-tailed deer, and her spotted fawn, Freckles, are facing hunger and danger in their forest. Hope decides that they must leave their home and go in search of a better place where they will be safe. When they arrive at a new forest, Hope and Freckles face unexpected challenges that will force them apart. Will they be reunited? After you have read the story of Hope and Freckles, continue to explore the stories of people all over the world who have to leave their homes because of danger or hunger. Let the tale of Hope and Freckles begin to teach you about the millions of people who face the same difficulties that this mother deer and her little boy face as refugees.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While this purports to be a book about refugees around the world, it's clear that the events in the story are based on what's going on in a particular area: the border between the United States and Mexico. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but it does lead to some disturbing plot points. (Like Bambi, this book has the potential to traumatize.)

Hope and her son, Freckles, are facing danger in the Olden Forest. So they decide to leave and make their way to the Big Pine Forest where Hope hopes they'll find a better life. But when they arrive, they're confronted with a fence and guards who tell them they can't come in. They might have disease-carrying ticks in their fur, after all. So the deer wait until, finally, they're allowed in... only to find out that the fawns will be separated from their parents. Eventually, Hope gets word that she and Freckles will be allowed to stay, and they are reunited... just before Hope witnesses the other deer being loaded onto trucks and sent back to their dangerous forests without their fawns.

The story is kind of brutal... but so is the treatment of refugees. The message is tempered somewhat by the adorable illustrations. They're perhaps my favourite part of the book.

Sometimes the truth is difficult to face. I think I'd recommend this one with some reservations. It's the kind of book that requires some discussion between kids and adults to get the most out of it (and so children aren't unnecessarily frightened by the thought of someone coming to take them away from their parents). It might not be appropriate for refugee children, since it has the potential to put new worries in their head. But it will probably need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Thank you to NetGalley and Mascot Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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