Ottoline and the Purple Fox, Chris Riddell (author/illustrator), Pan Macmillan, 2016
Ottoline and Mr Munroe love puzzles, clues and mysteries. One day, they meet an enigmatic purple fox, who offers to take them on a night-time urban safari. The fox shows them all the hidden animals of the city and Ottoline makes notes on them in her field notebook. Mr Munroe is making notes too – on the anonymous poems he finds stuck to lampposts on their journey. Who is the secretive poet, and how can he and Ottoline help them mend their broken heart?
Ottoline and the Purple Fox is the fourth book in Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell’s award-winning Ottoline series, however readers do not need to have read any others to understand this delightful story. Main character Ottoline, and her best friend Mr Munroe (an intriguing Cousin IT-esque companion), are back in this brand new book for young readers that sees the pair meeting new friends, exploring the Big City on an urban adventure, hosting a dinner party, and helping to mend a broken heart. They also get to indulge in their love of puzzles, clues and mysteries as the story goes along.
Published in a gorgeous hardback that kids will want to keep for many years, this book is as much about the pictures as it is the text. From its bright green cover decorated with elegant black and gold, through to its retro-style pictures on every page, the book is stunningly illustrated.
Chris Riddell has a distinctive illustration style that lends itself to continual re-readings. The black and white line illustrations, enlivened with purple highlights on most pages, are detailed and fun, and contain plenty of breadcrumbs, visual jokes, puns and other references. This allows readers to pick up on something new every time they read, and will no doubt prompt kids to spend hours poring over the story from cover to cover again and again.
The words in Ottoline and the Purple Fox are interesting and quirky as well. Ottoline’s parents are Roving Collectors who are always travelling and sending home unusual objects for Ottoline to take care of and sort out. She has plenty of help from Mr Munroe (who happens to be a very hairy, small bog from Norway that doesn’t say a word but whose supportive character is conveyed beautifully through the pictures), and many others who visit her apartment regularly.
There is the meal-delivery service, the clothes-folding company, the door-handle shiners, the light-bulb changers, pillow-plumping and curtain-drawing technicians, bed makers and sheet changers, and more. Plus, of course, there is also the Bear in the basement who prefers living in the apartment to a cold cave in Canada! The charming Purple Fox, and his melancholy friend the Crimson Vixen (a poetry-writing fox that doesn’t get noticed as much as she would like), add even more intrigue to the mix in this book.
The story and illustrations combine together to give readers an imaginative, sweet, funny and certainly unique tale of friendship, fun and adventure. There are lovely themes throughout, particularly when it comes to being a supportive friend; plus just enough humour and surprise to make the story very enchanting.
While the words throughout are quite sophisticated, the large visual component of the book means that Ottoline and the Purple Fox should be suitable for readers aged around seven or eight years and up. Many children will no doubt consume this classy confection of a book in one sitting too. As an added bonus, the book comes with a fold-up-and-keep fortune-teller game template and instructions.