Guide/Reviews Database
Reese, Jenn

A Game of Fox & Squirrels

(2) 4-6 Eleven-year-old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin have been sent away from their home in Los Angeles to stay with their aunt and her wife in Oregon. The mention of a caseworker and Sam's emotional fragility alert the reader to a backstory, gradually revealed, involving the violence of the girls' father. The realistic story line, in which Sam makes a friend and learns to trust her aunt, is paralleled by a fantasy story line begun when Sam discovers a card game called Fox & Squirrels. A charismatic fox character, Ashander, aided by his squirrel devotees, promises to give Sam her heart's desire--a return to her home--if she will only submit to his will. Through the tests that Ashander assigns--acts of vandalism that increase in seriousness--we are given a mirror portrait of the manipulative, abusive behavior of Sam's father. Sam is a bookish girl, and the world of Ashander contains references to Narnia and Middle Earth, but this is not a fantasy where the hero enters and leaves the fantasy world via some portal--rather it is one in which the two worlds are so intertwined that it seems at times as though Sam is undergoing a psychotic break. The squirrels, the kindly aunt and her wife, and Sam's new friend, a sunny boy who knits, add some warmth and lightness, but the overall temperature in this game is chilling.


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