Crow and Fox and Other Animal Legends


32 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 1-895688-11-6
DDC j398.24'5




Illustrations by Jan Thornhill
Reviewed by Ted McGee

Ted McGee is chair of the English Department at St. Jerome’s College,
University of Waterloo.


In this collection, Jan Thornhill retells and illustrates nine brief
animal stories from around the world. Each story focuses on a pair of
animals, one of which reappears in the next story; indeed, each animal
appears a third time, but hidden away for little children to search out.

As readers move from story to story, they also travel over six of the
world’s continents. The cultural shifts are marked by the borders of
the illustrations—borders that reproduce abstract patterns from, for
example, a West African blanket, a remnant of Sioux beadwork, and an
Australian aboriginal bark painting. Within these frames, Thornhill sets
carefully detailed figures against simplified backgrounds that tend
toward abstraction. Both figure and background, richly colored, are
often seen from a dynamic, slightly tilted point of view.

In the stories, the central characters have real tales to tell, and, in
several cases (like that of Ferlinghetti’s dog), real tails to tell
them with. Only one story has a simple “moral.” Most portray battles
of wits between characters, or explain pre-existing features of nature,
such as a crow’s blackness or a bear’s short tail. The quest for
food is the thematic thread running throughout; as a result, “Mouse
and Tapir,” a legend of “The Food Tree” from which “food for all
the animals and people of the world” grew, is an appropriate and
splendid culmination to the collection. In her worldwide search for
these tales, Thornhill found not irreconcilable cultural differences,
but “the same stories ... shared by people all over the world.”
Highly recommended.


Thornhill, Jan., “Crow and Fox and Other Animal Legends,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,