Have you ever tried playing a game, but the people you are playing with keep changing the rules. It’s not really fair. And it’s not really fun, but whenever you try to stand up for yourself you get ridiculed, teased and pestered. You can ask for help, or you can just let it go. Maybe the next time will be different. It’s hard to choose what to do.
Samantha Littlefield’s home life is a bit like that. After the incident that broke her sister’s arm, the girls find themselves in a car with Aunt Vicky on their way to her home in rural Oregon. It’s really different from Los Angeles. The house is way off the road. They have fresh air, quiet, chickens and Aunt Vicky has a wife, Hannah. Everything is different. At first all Sam can think about is how, and when she will get back home.
It’s clear that Aunt Vicki and Hannah are trying. They’ve been thinking about what the girls will need to feel happy, safe and at home. There’s even a birthday present waiting on Samatha’s bed when she arrives.
“Is this for me?” Sam picked it up, pulled the long pink ribbon through her fingers.
“Happy birthday,” Aunt Vicky said. “It was yesterday, wasn’t it? I thought you might like a present. We can bake a cake later too. With frosting. I’m not sure we have enough sugar, but we definitely have the eggs.” She chuckled, but Sam didn’t know why.
Oh, the chickens. Eggs and chickens. Eggs and cakes. Chicken and cakes. Was this the sort of thing people in Oregon found funny? …
Sam ripped off the paper and gasped. It wasn’t a book, as she’d been expecting. A Game of Fox & Squirrels was written in faded type across a battered box. The ampersand was swirly and inviting, and Sam couldn’t help but run her fingertip along its wild, swooping curves.
Something moved outside the window. A flash of red, fast as a heartbeat. But when Sam looked, she saw only the same old green grass and trees and blue sky.
“Its’s a card game,” Aunt Vicky said. “Works better with a few people. We can play later, if you want.”
Later, when Sam looks closely at the cards, she loves the characters. The squirrels are resourceful and strong. The trickster fox is enchanting. The next day Sam finds the characters have come- Squirrels: Birch, Cedar and Maple and Fox: Ashander – into her room. They talk to her and offer her a chance for adventure. The fox suggests a quest. He says if Sam is able to find and retrieve the Golden Acorn he, Ashander, will grant her everything she wishes for.
It seems like an easy choice and so the quest begins. Almost immediately the rules change and Sam finds herself lying, stealing and putting those she cares for and depends on, in danger. How will she win the game? Is winning a game important? What is important when you need help? Should anyone go on an important quest alone? What matters most?
In the Author’s Note of A Game of Fox & Squirrels, Jenn Reese says this is a book she had to write. It is a book she wished she’d had as a child when she was living with a “fox” – someone who kept changing the rules so she could never please them no matter how carefully she tried to follow the rules. Parents and teachers, make sure you read book… it may be just the story someone needs to hear.
Happy Reading! 📚