REVIEW: "White Fox" by Chen Jiatong

This book follows Dilah, an orphaned white fox cub who wants nothing more than to be human. Before his mother died, she gave him an item that would guide him on his quest - a magical moonstone. Dilah sets out on a quest guided by the moonstone to find the treasure that has the power to make animals human. He adventures across strange lands, meeting a cast of animals and interacting with humans along the way. However, an enemy fox pack are hunting this treasure, and will stop at nothing to get it. The wicked blue foxes wish to steal the treasure for themselves, and their pursuit of Dilah gives this book an edge of survival and intensity. Can he stay one step ahead of his enemies? A book for people who enjoy magic, animals, and adventure in their stories.

The publicity information for this book states that it is the first middle-grade children's fiction series to ever be translated into English from Chinese, and that it is a bestseller in China. I can absolutely see why.

Themes of conservation and nature, civilisation and what it means to be human are intertwined in a fast paced and intense survival and adventure story. Dilah is a beautifully developed fox, and his kind and inquisitive nature meant I was attached to him immediately. The cast of other characters (no spoilers) who he befriends and helps are also introduced to the story in a diverse and natural way. Dilah is determined and brave, and makes for a well developed main character who tackles every task he faces with courage. This book also touches on the cruelty, but also kindness, of humans. The desire of Dilah to turn into a human pushes him to interact and learn about humans, and his insight is startling. Some are kind, offering food and admiring the beautiful fox. Others are cruel, hunters or poachers. There is certainly an element of conflict in Dilah's observation of humans: why should he want to be a creature that could be so cruel?

It is an interesting and subverting idea that animals should want to be humans. Many books I have read have tackled the metamorphosis of humans into animals, or animals as a voice to point out the errors and inconsistencies of humankind. Thus, the adventure and perspective of this book is refreshing, and makes a great suggestion for kids who enjoy books with animals, and adventure novels.

The illustrations in this book are lively and stunning: Viola Wang has done a brilliant job of presenting Dilah and his friends through illustrations that make the descriptions leap off the page. I absolutely adored the illustrations in this book - they are vivid and stark and an excellent combination with the text.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, totally engrossed, and am looking forward to the next part of Dilah's adventure.

Author information:

Published on the 5th of September 2019 by Chicken House, translation by Jennifer Feeley.

Cover and illustrations by Viola Wang

Orignally published as Dilah and the Moonstone by People's Literature Publishing House (2014)

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