When my mother first told me about this book, she said all three of us – Wookie, Fleet, and I – would like it. Since she was already buying us a copy, I didn’t give it much thought because I assumed she would deliver it around Christmas. As promised, it appeared at our house on Christmas Eve and I casually thumbed through the first few pages. Wow was I surprised at how quickly the book drew me in.
A best-selling illustrated book by Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has almost created its own genre by breaking every rule from beginning to end. The inside covers are sheet music – because why not? – and the first official pages are a note from the author that talks about how surprised he is that he “made” (not wrote) a book because he’s “not good at reading them.” Additionally, all of the publishing information is in the back rather than the front and Mackesy’s bio is discreetly placed right above it.
The entire book is written in handwriting font – almost like a journal – and I assume it’s the author’s actual handwriting which of course I love. The illustrations (they appear in both black and white and color) are simple but impactful and the adventures of the four protagonists named in the title are packed with life lessons. Almost every page is quotable – no easy feat – and the simplicity of the drawings, words, and overall messages are what make this piece of writing so brilliant.
There is so much being said with so few words which is extremely difficult to do. As a writer, editor, PR person, and tutor, I’m constantly explaining why less is more and The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse takes that thought process to a new level. As a result, Mackesy has created a book for people who don’t like books. For the people who think that books are for nerds, are boring, or are too much of a commitment. Although I think missing out on reading is a shame, I get that reading isn’t for everyone, and this masterpiece was created for those people.
I could spend this entire review quoting the book but I don’t want to ruin it. Here are a few favorites:
“What do you think is the biggest waste of time?”
“Comparing yourself to others,” said the Mole.
“I wonder if there is a school of unlearning.”
“Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid.”
“One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.”
Maybe it’s because these conversations are taking place between a little boy and three animals (there is no better way to tug at my heartstrings) but the words of wisdom that permeate the book are absolutely incredible. As I read, I found myself thinking: “Wow, no truer words” or “I really need to keep that in mind.”
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said,” asked the Boy.
“Help,” said the Horse.
“I often feel I have nothing interesting to say,” said the Fox.
“Being honest is always interesting,” said the Horse.
Although the book was published in 2019, so much of the overall messages are applicable to 2020 – especially the importance of bravery and love. We are teaching Fleet new things every day and bravery and love are two of the most important lessons he will learn. What else is there besides those two, health, and happiness? And, of course, understanding the important role animals play in our lives.
As the final days of 2020 approach, and I think about the countless people who have had the toughest year of their lives, I can’t help but recommend this book to everyone. Thank you Mom.