Thames & Hudson, 2016 hbk 48 pages, ISBN: 9780500650899
Mother Fox and Her Cubs by Amandine Momenceau offers an appealing, playful and satisfying story for young children (aged 3-5, ideally), while older children will marvel at the clever design. Adults won’t resist the book’s many charms, either.
The story is simple. Following a night of heavy snow the forest floor is turned white and this offers many places for clever young foxes to hide in and to explore. It is the task of Mother Fox – and of the reader – to find the young quartet and keep them safe. We might say that the book is a day in the life of a family of foxes. (Although father fox is absent, I hazard that this is for simplicity of narrative and design and not for any particular point.)
Mother Fox and Her Cubs is not quite a pop-up book, and yet not nearly as fragile as some of the fine, lace-like paper cutting in the books of Hélène Druvert (Paris Up, Up and Away and Mary Poppins Up, Up and Away). Amandine’s is an elegant game of hide and seek within the pages of her book.
When it comes to creating images in cut paper, of course there is another tradition in France that Amandine Momenceau can look to. Remember the work of Henri Matisse? Her biographical note for the original French edition reads: Her favourite weapon is a small pair of scissors.
Momenceau’s découpe methods apply not only to the composition of images, but also to the pages themselves. Indeed the book is wholly designed using cut paper. The method adds both texture and depth to the scenes, while the artist also skillfully renders expression and nuance in the faces of her characters.
Mother Fox and Her Cubs is like a cheeky, upbeat version of the English classic Owl Babies. But rather than awaiting the return of night hunting mother, here it is the young ones who hide, and it is the reader who does the hunting. But rest assured, the ending has a satisfying twist while it remains in keeping with the strategies the artist has employed. This is Amandine Momenceau’s first book in English – it was published almost immediately after the original French edition. I’m almost certain that we will see a lot more of her work in the years to come. I do hope so.
The game and the rules – that is the theme of this year’s major exhibition at the Salon du livre et de presse jeunesse – starting in Paris at the end of November. It’s a timely proposition for picture books from France, since so many creators are exploring the ways picture books function in the hands of readers, and new and surprising ways stories can be told. Think of Hervé Tullet and Jean Jullien as just two examples of artists who love to explore and bend the picture book form.
About Amandine Momenceau
Amandine was born in 1987 and holds a master of graphic design. Her research into the creation of picture books led to her discovery of many different methods of illustration, but above all she discovered a passion for the book as object and the technique ofusing cut paper (papier découpé). Her favourite weapon is a small pair of scissors. Some of Amandine’s work is published under the pseudonym Truk.
Visit her blog for some fascinating background on her image making, and some nice examples of her work with children.
And speaking of pop-ups books, of course there is a little French society dedicated to making them.
Mother Fox and Her Cubs was published in France as Maman Reynard by éditions L'Agrume, 2015.