Good Question : A Tale Told Backwards
By Sue Whiting & Annie White
Reviewed by Barbara Braxton
Remember the story of Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and their mates who were on their way to tell the King that the sky was falling when they met up with Fox? Well, this is the story behind the story that explains just how Fox came to be in the right place at the right time to get himself something to fill his empty tummy.
There is a hint on the front endpapers that there is more to this story than meets the eye with a number of familiar fairy tale characters in the woods, although the main story starts with Fox high in a tree talking to the reader and ready to explain why he is there.
It’s an intriguing tale of cause and effect that takes the reader back through his frustrating day told in a monologue that engages the reader and makes them want to turn the page. How do all those characters fit in to one story?
Accompanied by action-packed illustrations that enrich Fox’s narrative in the best way, there is a repetitive refrain that drives the story on until we are back to why Fox is up the tree. And what happens then? Good question. I thought you’d never ask. And to discover the answer you have to look closely and follow right to the final end pages.
As well as being a most entertaining story, this has so much potential to be a model for a class or individual story. The great storytellers always say they start with the end in mind – they know where their main character is going to finish up and then it’s a matter of working backwards to untangle how that happens and how they got there. So the story end becomes the story start.
Younger writers might all start with the same stimulus of a particular picture that has a character in an unusual situation and track the story backwards, offering the potential for a class book of imaginative interpretations while older students might choose their own character and situation.
This really deserves its place as a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.