My sister and I gave The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse to our mum for Christmas – a wise present it turns out, seeing as I’ve now read it more times than she has. Looking at it again this past week has been a comforting escape. The book is formed from a collection of beautifully expressive ink illustrations with handwritten words, stitched together by a gently anchoring narrative. We follow four friends: an inquisitive boy who asks questions about the world and ponders his relationships with the others; a mole full of reassuring words, whose thoughts are also largely occupied by cake (which makes for some of my favourite moments); a fox who is reserved and quiet because of their past, yet loved by the others no matter what; and a wise horse who reveals an ability to fly. The story’s subtle linearity stitches the order of the pages together, but you don’t need to read it cover to cover. Each page is an isolated piece of art and storytelling in its own right, so dip in and dip out; you’ll never be lost in the story.
The book is a treasure – playful, affecting, healing, joyful, wrapping you in heartfelt images and words. Charlie Mackesy’s characters express courage in asking for help, knowing your own value and that you are enough, the strength in community, caring for friends, the meaning of home, resilience, compassion and the power of kindness. They tell us: “Love doesn’t need you to be extraordinary”, “Being honest is always interesting”, cake is a remedy, “kindness […] sits quietly beyond all things”, “you bring to this world things no one else can”, and some reassurance we all need to hear at this time … “This storm will pass”.
Mackesy has an equally wholesome Instagram page.
– Naomi Hart
All original photography.