“Once upon a time, there was a boy named Paul,” begins the narration of an unusual, vibrant picture book from a Lithuanian writer and illustrator team that quickly veers into the unexpected in the very next sentence. “Wait, that’s not quite right. This story begins in a different way,” adds writer Evelina Daciutè. Daciutè’s lively, meandering narration is just one of the many pleasures of The Fox on the Swing.
This story is indeed about a boy named Paul, who lives in a very tall tree with a father who flies helicopters and a mother who makes mostly orange pottery. Every day Paul walks to the bakery to buy freshly baked rolls for his family’s tea, and on the way home he often encounters a fox on a park swing.
The two become fast friends, although as in most fables, this is a prickly, clever fox. “Being generous is like an ocean,” the fox tells Paul. “Would you like to be a drop in that ocean?” When Paul nods, the fox asks for one of his rolls.
The story is filled with humor and joy, all enhanced by the busy, beautiful collage-style art of Aušra Kiudulaite, which includes a lively cornucopia of helicopters, parades, wild animals, constellations, funny labels and signs on each and every page.
Paul’s storybook life turns upside down when his family moves to a new city, forcing him to leave behind his best friend, Fox. Everything will be better, Paul’s parents promise, but Paul doesn’t see things that way. Happily, an unexpected treat is eventually revealed after the move.
The Fox on the Swing transforms a tender story about friendship and moving into a jubilant, philosophical celebration of unexpected delights. It’s truly a book worth rereading, and new rewards are likely to be discovered each time.