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A Game of Fox & Squirrels (2020)

by Jenn Reese

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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946292,193 (4.15)1
After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year-old Samantha Littlefield and her older sister, Caitlin, are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way thing were ... before she spoke up. When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called A Game of Fox & Squirrels, Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam's Room and offers her an adventure and a promise: Find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires. But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more welcoming than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This isn't a book I would have typically picked up (animals in the title and the cover), but it was a listen. While the a lot of the fantasy aspects about the book appeared to be related to a game and quest, it also was a metaphor for the realizations of healing from the mindset of dealing with an abuser. The fox and Sam's dad seem to maybe have a lot in common.
Taken from their home in LA after Caitlin has a broken arm which somehow her dad seems responsible for even though the incident is never clearly described, the sisters end up with their aunt and her wife in far away Oregon. At first Sam just wants everything to go back to how it was before. But as she unpacks her life to date and has a chance to adjust to something new, she wonders what is really best for her and her sister.
A moving story with a mix of realistic and some magical realism/fantasy.
Gently handles a really tough topic. ( )
  ewyatt | May 31, 2023 |
Honestly one of the impactful children's books I've ever read. ( )
  HCSimmons | Mar 11, 2023 |
11-year-old Samantha has recently moved into the care of her aunt, along with her sister, after being removed from their parents' home. A series of magical, but frightening, experiences around a card game gifted to her by her aunt serves as an allegory, and helps Sam process what has happened within her family. ( )
  bibliovermis | Jun 7, 2021 |
The story opens with Sam and her sister, Caitlin, arriving in Oregon to stay with their Aunt Vicky and her wife. Sam is quiet, reserved, and jumpy while Caitlin is a people-pleaser and the transition to this new life is especially rough for Sam who wants only to return to the life she left behind in Los Angeles.

Aunt Vicky gives Sam a well-loved card game and Sam finds herself drawn to the characters: the charming fox and the sweet squirrels. When the characters appear in her real life, Sam is at first thrown, but as the fox makes her promises, she gets wrapped into his game. Her quest to find the golden acorn that will allow her to return to the life she left behind leads her to make choices she never would have made, hurting those she loves. But, as the game goes on, Sam must decide what it is she really wants.

Books in which magic appears in our real world are among my favorite, and this one is superbly done. Reese uses magic, and the game, to slowly reveal the past abuse that led to the sisters being relocated to their aunts' house. The fox himself is a trickster and an abuser, charming one moment and cruel the next, allowing Sam--and young readers--to gain needed perspective on her situation.

Sarah Franco reads the audiobook, bringing all the characters vividly to life and capturing Sam's longing perfectly.
  megbmore | May 24, 2021 |
I read this as part of my Norton finalist packet.

There's a reason this middle grade book has garnered so much buzz and a Norton nomination: it's a beautifully-done fantasy story in a modern setting with a young girl working through the repercussions of domestic abuse. There are no graphic depictions, but plenty of nuance.

When Sam and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live with their aunt and her wife up in Oregon, Sam is upset at leaving her southern California home and her parents--even though her sister has a broken arm, and it's her dad's fault. Sam is working through a lot. She's mad that their family secret came out, mad at her sister for getting her arm broken, mad at being away from her best friend, mad at her aunt and her wife for being so nice that it is hard to hate them. Amidst all this, Sam encounters a dapperly-attired fox in her room who says that if she can complete his challenges, she can win a Golden Acorn that will enable her to grant a wish. She can go home! But this fox is a trickster and the rules keep changing and the challenges make her do terrible things, and it becomes more and more apparent that this is a game she can never win.

The parallels between the fox's cruel challenges and Sam's father are incredibly well done. There's a heavy message to the book, but it is handled with eloquence. It is an uncomfortable read at times, as well it should be, and contains an overall spirit of hope and resilience that is much needed for kids (and for adults, too). I really think this will become a classic in the middle grade genre. ( )
  ladycato | Apr 2, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jenn Reeseprimary authorall editionscalculated
Franco, SarahNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roux, JessicaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year-old Samantha Littlefield and her older sister, Caitlin, are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way thing were ... before she spoke up. When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called A Game of Fox & Squirrels, Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam's Room and offers her an adventure and a promise: Find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires. But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more welcoming than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

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