A Fox and His Music: Gaspards’ Foxtrot by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

The Gaspard Collection by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

When I first met Gaspard the Fox in 2018, I have to admit I was enchanted. The tale of an urban fox; and based on the life of a real urban fox, I must add; brought a vivid picture of his meanderings and encounters and gave a glimpse of London city life, as well. It made me more alert to the activities of my own local urban foxes and the abundance of actual wildlife in the city and made me wonder what I could do to welcome it all in; to really make the local foxes and their wild friends part of the community. And I found myself pondering more about their local adventures. Did they have domesticated friends, like Gaspard? Did they find themselves attending fetes and festivals unbeknownst to the humans towering over them?

As Gaspards’ story continued with Best in Show, I got a real chuckle at the possibility of a fox inadvertently finding himself the winner of a local dog show. Indeed, all of Gaspards’ adventures bring a smile and a genuine sense of adventure and charm into my day, while including interesting tidbits about nature, wildlife and how people interact with it. And now, with the launch of Gaspards’ Foxtrot, I am considering the importance of music…

GASPARDS’ FOXTROT

author: Zeb Soanes

illustrator: James Mayhew

Graffeg Ltd (4 March 2021)

ISBN: 9781913134808

Honeys’ garden is a little haven for wildlife in the city of London, where all creatures can find a home… like the bees buzzing in their hives by the compost heap and, curled up in a bright, sunny corner, Gaspard the fox. Gaspard is friends with Honeys’ dog, Finty. And a visit from Peter the cat is always welcome. Honey has left the radio on in the garden, playing music to civilise the bees, and Peter is quick to point out that todays’ music is Gaspards’ song, Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the night.) Finty tells Gaspard about the concert in Hyde Park taking place tonight. It’s all about Londons’ wildlife. And Gaspard wants to come along. But a fox on a London bus? Traveling across the whole city? It doesn’t seem like a good idea. Then a small mishap with Honeys’ scarf leads Gaspard on an adventure to return it. He travels along on the number 38 bus, seeing so many sights, passing so many landmarks and arriving just in time….to have a wonderful surprise waiting for him.

Like the previous two Gaspard books, the gentle, flowing story bring another of the everyday adventures to be had as our friendly fox makes his way around the human world. Gaspard is kind and curious, aware of his surroundings in a way that most people simply aren’t, and this opens our eyes to things we take for granted. The vivid, character-full illustrations by James Mayhew work in perfect harmony with the text, capturing the cityscape, the sense of adventure and wonder and the personality of our intrepid wanderer. The map of Gaspards’ travels that graces the end-pages gives an incredible amount of easy-to-follow added interest. The beautiful, glowing pictures with their exquisite details; the rushing about of people on the street, the side-views of shops, the towering spires and glowing lanterns; show us a London we don’t normally see, inspiring the reader to want to journey on that same bus, exploring Gaspards’ route and looking again. And if you don’t live in London, it encourages you to look around at your own place with a clean set of eyes, noticing the nuances of where you live. This book, its’ words, its’ illustrations all sing with the glorious, subtle music of the fox. Warm-hearted, full of eyes wide open to the world all around and simply joyous.

But Gaspards’ Foxtrot is unique. The tale and the journey bring with it a gorgeous introduction to classical music and understanding of the work of an orchestra. In a world of digital everything, the experience of the orchestra is quite a rare thing in the lives of most children (and quite a number of adults.) In a world of “stars” and “celebrity”, the orchestra is one place that notion simply doesn’t exist. This experience of watching the orchestra work in concert with each other to create music gives a view of what it means to create music, how to paint a scene with music and how to work together as a community to make something beautiful. Adding this string to the bow strengthens the overriding themes of friendship, compassion and understanding that runs throughout all the Gaspard books.

Now….the really exciting news. Gaspards’ Foxtrot, this beautiful story with its’ glorious illustrations, so relatable, so tangible, so full of wonder; this story has been adapted by the composer, Jonathan Dove. Conceived from the start by Zeb Soanes, James Mayhew and Jonathan as both book and orchestral work, the concert will feature live illustration by Mayhew, narration by Soanes and will be played by a range of professional orchestras across the UK, including a performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on 10 May 2021. So keep your eyes and ears peeled for Gaspards’ Foxtrot.

I want to thank Graffeg, Ltd for sending me the review copy of Gaspards’ Foxtrot. It is a real treasure. And for inviting me to last Thursdays’ virtual launch! What a joy! https://graffeg.com/products/gaspards-foxtrot

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