A Family of Foxes (cover) Eilís Dillon
A Family of Foxes

illustrated by Richard Kennedy
"Beautifully written as always, mature, exciting and utterly real, Eilís Dillon's new book takes us once more to the Galway Coast, to an island where a group of boys work out a problem. Two silver foxes are washed up after a storm. Since the islanders have vowed never to allow this feared species on the island, they must be hidden, and the difficulty of caring for them is increased four-fold when the female has cubs ... round the central plot the whole life of the island goes on, in talk that mingles gossip, mysterious prediction and goodwill, and in the author's superb descriptions of sea-washed, sun-dried beaches and hillsides." (Margery Fisher in Growing Point)

"The plot is about shipwrecked silver foxes which four children decide to save and nurture, in secret, because foxes - all foxes - are the islanders' enemies. How they succeed makes an exciting, amusing, very human tale which will hold the interest of children of all ages. This book is a 'must' for the youngster with a passionate interest in animals." (Irish Independent)

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More reviews after this extract ....

For a few minutes the boys sat perfectly still, watching how the foxes' ribs went up and down slowly, with a little shiver in between. Their eyes were opening every moment and their ears were beginning to twitch.

"The salt water is tickling their skin," Patsy said.

At that moment the bigger fox sat up and began to lick himself like a dog.

"He'll have a thirst on him after all that salt," said Michael. "Wherever we bring him, there must be water handy."

"Wherever we bring them, there must be a stone floor," said Séamus. "Foxes are a fright to burrow."

They were silent again while they thought, trying to remember everything they had ever heard about the habits of foxes, and how to look after them. After a few minutes Colm said:

"I've been thinking hard, and I can say truly that I never in all my life heard a good word for a fox. All I ever heard was how to shoot them or trap them. They were telling a story in our house about a fox that saw the trap that was laid for him and didn't he drop a rock on to it to make it go off. Then he rolled on the ground and laughed and laughed, and went into his burrow. But the men had been watching and they laid two traps the next time. The fox dropped a stone into the first trap, but when he rolled on the ground and laughed, didn't he roll into the second trap so that it snapped and caught him. In all the stories it's the same thing - they always catch the fox in the end."

"'Tis true," said Patsy. "We must hide them very well. I wish we could bring them to another island."

The others disagreed with this.

"Where would you bring them where they'd be safe? The men go hunting on all the islands."

"How could we bring them food on another island? We'd surely be seen, going and coming."

"Some days we couldn't go and come at all, if the weather was bad."

"Some days we wouldn't be allowed in the currachs."

"If they were on another island we'd never have a right chance to play with them," said Colm, who was stroking the smaller fox's head. "Think of it this way: where would the foxes like to be?"

"A wild place."

"A safe place."

"A dry place."

"A place where there would be no red foxes around , said Patsy. "If these are foxes, they are not like the red ones. The red ones mightn't like them, the way red cows don't like black and white cows. 'Twould be as bad if the red foxes were to kill them as if the men were to do it."

"The red foxes! Would they do that?"

"They have a bad reputation," Patsy said. "I wouldn't put it past them."

More reviews ....

"This is an enchanting book, told very simply and yet movingly. The picture of life on this remote island, where superstition goes hand-in-hand with religion and the greatest event is the arrival of the Post Boat, is excellent ... this one will appeal to children of all ages who love animals. (Junior Bookshelf)
"This is a fine adventure story in a natural setting of island life and custom." (Times Educational Supplement)
"The boys' thoughtfulness for the animals and the many stratagems they use ... make an unusually gentle story, with his full quota of mixed Irish other-worldliness and realism, and the wild sea wind blowing through it. "(The Guardian)
"This is a marvellous story, with wonderful background and detail." (The Friend)
"I believe this unusual tale will give great pleasure to children will appreciate good writing. It really is out of the rut and can claim to be children's literature. It is brilliantly illustrated by Richard Kennedy." (The Teacher)
"Superbly told against the convincing atmosphere of a hard-working, closely knit Irish community (Christian Science Monitor)
"The villagers who gather round the fire in the evening are superbly articulate in the manner of the Irish and the conversational interplay between the boys is wonderfully revealing. Miss Dillon is a past master at evoking the lonely beauty of the Aran Islands, a beauty here compounded of spring skies, wind, sea gulls and turf fires in stone cottages." (New York Herald Tribune)
"The atmosphere of the Aran Islands and its people is skilfully captured in a story about four boys and four silver fox cubs ... Walt Disney intends to make a movie of the story and it should be one the whole family can enjoy." (Washington Star)

The author sent a short note to an American publisher about why she wrote this story.

If you would like to read A FAMILY OF FOXES, ask in your local library, where they know all about books for young people.

Disney haven't made that movie, yet ....

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