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A Game of Fox & Squirrels



by
Jenn Reese

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Macmillan
Imprint
Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
ISBN
9781250243010

Awards and Honors
2021 Nebula Awards Finalist
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Violence: Child Abuse
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Eleven-year-old Samantha and her older sister, Caitlin, are sent to live in rural Oregon with an estranged aunt following a domestic violence incident with their father. Sam wants nothing more than to go back home, back to the way things were…before she spoke up.

Then Aunt Vicky gives Sam a battered card game. Sam falls in love with the whimsical animal characters, especially the charming fox, Ashander. One day Ashander shows up in her room and offers her an adventure: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires. As magic and reality blur, Sam is swept up in a game she may not be prepared to play.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Violence: Child Abuse

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

224

Trim Size

8 1/4" x 5 1/3"

Dewey

F

AR

4.6: points 7

Lexile

660L

Genre

Fiction

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Sep 2020

Book Genres

Fantasy

Topics

Sisters. Aunts. Abusive parents. Friendship. Card games. Magic. Foxes. Physical and emotional abuse.

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

An engaging blend of genres that will be different from most novels on middle grade shelves. Reese’s latest blurs the lines of real and fantastical in the everyday world. Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live with an aunt they hardly know following a domestic violence incident. Both sisters are dealing with the move and the changes that surround them. When Samantha receives a gift of a board game called “Fox & Squirrels,” her curiosity prompts her to open the box on the first night. After she opens it, Samantha starts to see the game characters in her real world. She must follow the rules of the game and complete the tasks asked of her to win a wish for anything she desires. She must decide how far she will go to grasp this ultimate prize. Reese blends intriguing fantasy elements with a realistic fiction plot. As the story progresses, clues are revealed about what was actually happening in the sisters’ lives at home. At the same time, readers are drawn into the fantasy world of the game. The plot gains momentum as the mysteries of both the realistic elements and the fantasy world entwine. Readers who enjoyed Kate DiCamillo‘s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan will want to play this dangerous game with Samantha. A middle grade fantasy dealing with realistic issues that will be a solid addition to elementary or middle school libraries where either genre circulates well.

Horn Book

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, invoving the violence of the girls' father. The realistic storyline, in which Sam makes a friend and learns to trust her aunt, is paralleled by a fantasy storyline begun when Sam discovers a card game called Fox and 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 mirroe 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.

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

An engaging blend of genres that will be different from most novels on middle grade shelves. Reese’s latest blurs the lines of real and fantastical in the everyday world. Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live with an aunt they hardly know following a domestic violence incident. Both sisters are dealing with the move and the changes that surround them. When Samantha receives a gift of a board game called “Fox & Squirrels,” her curiosity prompts her to open the box on the first night. After she opens it, Samantha starts to see the game characters in her real world. She must follow the rules of the game and complete the tasks asked of her to win a wish for anything she desires. She must decide how far she will go to grasp this ultimate prize. Reese blends intriguing fantasy elements with a realistic fiction plot. As the story progresses, clues are revealed about what was actually happening in the sisters’ lives at home. At the same time, readers are drawn into the fantasy world of the game. The plot gains momentum as the mysteries of both the realistic elements and the fantasy world entwine. Readers who enjoyed Kate DiCamillo‘s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan will want to play this dangerous game with Samantha. A middle grade fantasy dealing with realistic issues that will be a solid addition to elementary or middle school libraries where either genre circulates well.

Horn Book

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, invoving the violence of the girls' father. The realistic storyline, in which Sam makes a friend and learns to trust her aunt, is paralleled by a fantasy storyline begun when Sam discovers a card game called Fox and 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 mirroe 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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