Lisa Doucet Reviews Rebecca Thomas’ Swift Fox All Along
Swift Fox All Along
Rebecca Thomas, illustrated by Maya McKibbon
Today is a special day for Swift Fox: she is going to meet her dad’s family for the first time and be introduced to her Mi’kmaq heritage. Filled with apprehension, her belly feels full of butterflies.
When she and her dad arrive, she is greeted by a flurry of new faces. Her father tries to reassure her that Mi’kmaq is “who you are,” but Swift Fox isn’t so sure and when her fear and uncertainty overwhelm her, she runs out of the house in tears.
It takes the familiar smell of her father’s fry bread—along with the arrival of another new cousin who shares her worries and her belly full of butterflies—to give Swift Fox the courage to go back inside, and open herself up to her family and this part of herself that she is just discovering.
Earnest and heartfelt, this story will strike a chord with children of all ages and backgrounds while inevitably having special resonance for Indigenous children who may also have grown up off-reserve and/or apart from their heritage. Swift Fox’s fears are realistically depicted as she struggles to understand what it means to be Mi’kmaq. Her frustration when she doesn’t know how to smudge and cries out, “If it’s inside me, why can’t I find it?” is poignant.
Rebecca Thomas beautifully portrays this boisterous, loving family but also astutely captures Swift Fox’s and cousin Sully’s feelings as newcomers to this family and their traditions.
Maya McKibbon’s illustrations are animated and energetic, perfectly rendering the full range of emotions that Swift Fox experiences. McKibbon also cleverly incorporates Thomas’s butterfly motif throughout the illustrations, visually interpreting the nervousness that both Swift Fox and Sully experience.
A touching story of family and identity, all children will empathize with feeling out of place and wanting to belong. However, for many young readers it will also be a powerful introduction to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous children.
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young-adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.