Hope And Freckles: Fleeing To A Better Forest (Bill Kiley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hope And Freckles: Fleeing To A Better Forest, written by Bill Kiley and illustrated by Mary Manning.

Mother deer Hope and her fawn Freckles have lived in the Olden Forest all their life, but the time has come for them to leave; food is growing scarce and the number of predators are increasing. Fearing for her baby’s future, Hope decides to head to the Big Pine Forest. Together, the two walk for many days, meeting other deer who have also been forced from their homes and traveling beside them. At last, they reach to Big Pine Forest, only to find a big wall and two rangers barring their entrance. Initially combative, the rangers listen to the deers’ pleas for refuge and decide to let them in, but under a few conditions: they will have to be separated from the other deer, fenced in until the higher-ups decide if they can stay. Most frighteningly, they declare the adult deer must be separated from their fawns. Freckles cries at the thought of being separated from his mother, and Hope tries her best to comfort him by promising they’ll see each other again soon. Yet as the days go by with no word or sign of Freckles, Hope begins to wonder: will she ever see her baby again?

Whew, this one is heavy. Essentially a storybook retelling of the current immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border, this animal-fable is striking honest. Hope and Freckles are eventually reunited, but other refugee deer are suddenly loaded into trucks that take them back to their origins – without their fawns (there is a vague promise that the fawns will be brought to them later, but this is never shown and left ambiguous). It’s sad, and could potentially be upsetting for younger readers, yet does a commendable job of making such complicated subject accessible and understandable. The digital art is exceptionally good for an indie, with expressive characters that inspire empathy. The length and subject matter are better for older readers, though JJ was very invested throughout. A challenging tale to be sure, but one that may help little ones find sympathy for those seeking better lives. Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)