January 30, 2023

Fox and Bear

Written and illustrated by Miriam Körner
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
January 2023
Though life for most animals revolves around the search for food and may seem mundane by human standards, Bear thinks life is pretty good. He loves picking berries while Fox hunts for eggs. And in between the search for food, Bear takes naps and enjoys the daily sunset while Fox searches for treasures and hides them. But then Fox has an idea. What if he could make their food forays more efficient?
From Fox and Bear by Miriam Körner
They start with cages to trap geese and keep them as egg-layers. They also gather more berries and seeds and plant them. Though their aim was to spend less time searching for food, all their chores require more effort, and Fox and Bear rarely have time for the pleasures of naps, treasure hunting and sunsets. So, Fox comes up with another idea.
This time, Fox draws up plans for a complex set of machines to gather eggs, feed the birds, water the plants, and pick the berries. Unfortunately, they have to dig up mountains and cut down trees for their contraption. And there were new jobs of gathering wood for the steam engines, filling the bird feeder and building more cages. As their work became more efficient, it became bigger and more involved and time-consuming. Eventually Bear realizes that their new efforts are greater than their past ones and their original daily tasks were the best of all.
From Fox and Bear by Miriam Körner
Fox and Bear could be an updated version of an Aesop's fable. Whether the message is about greed or ensuring that progress is actually an improvement, Fox and Bear remind us that bigger is not always best. A simple life of earnest food-searching and basic pleasures like napping and sunset-watching are not to be dismissed. Our world today is so focused on getting bigger and more that those who adhere to the principles of simple and meaningful are disregarded. It's reassuring to see that, although Bear goes along with Fox's plans, he eventually realizes what is best for him. What Fox decides is up to the reader as Miriam Körner leaves it open as to whether he too will return to his former life or stick with his new busy and overworked lifestyle. (This would be an interesting lesson for students to consider.)

Author-illustrator Miriam Körner lives in Northern Saskatchewan, and I suspect that the very landscape she sees outside her cabin's window is what has given her Fox and Bear's story. The destruction of forests for development must be seen in her northern community, whether for commercial farming, forestry, mining or settlements. Perhaps those behind all that economic planning should be reading Fox and Bear along with young readers.
From Fox and Bear by Miriam Körner
Behind her impactful story is Miriam Körner's artwork which is extraordinary. She has created dioramas from recycled paper and cardboard packaging painted with graphite pencils, soft pastels and acrylic paint. Through a limited palette of browns with red for fox and occasional hints of blue or black, Miriam Körner gives Fox and Bear an organic and very realistic feel to the natural world. Even when she introduces the machinery that Fox implements for efficiency, the cut of the paper and shape of her structures, though of the same colours, shouts of the manufactured and the synthetic. I'm a big fan of textures in picture book illustrations and, by photographing dioramas she has made of the paper and cardboard, Miriam Körner introduces even further textures with shadows and a three-dimensionality to the art. Miriam Körner's artwork presents a story of such quality that readers will be drawn in by the art but will stay for the fable that simple is sometimes actually best.


  1. The most beautiful review up to date. Thank you so much. It’s always special when someone fully understands the intention behind a work!

    1. I'm so glad the review hit the mark. (You never know!) I was so impressed by the artwork. I hope we'll be seeing more picture books from you.