Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Book Review: The Fox Hole by Ivan Southall (1967)

The Fox Hole is a slim middle grade novel by Australian author Ivan Southall. Ken has come to stay with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. When he falls into a fox hole and makes a surprising and valuable discovery, Ken's uncle, Bob, struggles with two conflicting desires: the desire to rescue his nephew, and the desire to strike it rich.

This is a concise story that packs a bit of a punch. Ivan Southall not only portrays a realistic child character to whom most kids can relate, but he also uses his story to raise moral questions about how people, including adults, navigate their lives. At first the story feels like it could have been lifted from the everyday life of any child. but it takes a bit of a dark turn when it becomes clear that the uncle is having second thoughts about actually helping Ken. The author deftly handles the change in tone and also manages to write an ending that resolves most of the story's tension but still makes the reader think.

I think this book would pair nicely with something like On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer, which also explores the complicated feelings people sometimes have when things go wrong. I definitely want to read some more from Ivan Southall - in his economy of language, he reminds me very much of one of my favorite authors, Betsy Byars.

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