Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the Crook of the Oak

D.S. Foster's mystical allegory, In the Crook of the Oak, revolves around Lee and his struggles with temptation.  When a mesmerizing beetle lures Lee into the forbidden forest and a beautiful black fox promises enticing rewards, Lee chooses to follow the fox, even though he should return home to his aunt and uncle.

The fox tells Lee a sad story or friendship and betrayal. Lee is moved and decides he should help the fox by taking a charmed leaf  and keeping it away from a deceptive girl who appears in the form of a ghost.  Lee climbs the old oak tree and steals the silver leaf before the little ghost-girl can persuade him to give the leaf to her. Every now and then, Lee feels a flash of remorse, but then he remembers all the wonderful treasures the fox has promised.  In order to get his reward, Lee must burn the leaf  when he returns home.  However, before he can burn it, a cardinal wakes him up and convinces Lee to follow her.  The longer Lee follows the cardinal, the better able he is to hear her voice.  She brings Lee to the Water Spirit, who directs him to the Oak Tree.

The Water Spirit and Oak Tree explain the true natures of the little girl and the fox to Lee, who realizes he was wrong to believe the fox's smooth lies.  Lee races to give the leaf to Miria, the ghost-girl, before it is too late.  When it looks as if all is lost, the noble stag, Milthorn, intervenes, and assists Lee.   Plot Spoilers Ahead:   Milthorn loses his life in the process, but Lee still has time to give Miria the leaf.  The "leaf" turns out to be Miria's missing feathers, and she is restored from a ghost to an angel.

Full-page pencil sketches are scattered throughout.

What I Like:  Lee's struggle with temptation is very believable.  The fox is beautiful, friendly and speaks warmly.  He compliments Lee and appears to help him at the beginning of the journey.  Lee's uncle is strict and punishes him for staying out all night.  These situations would be excellent points for parents to discuss with their children.  It is important to realize people may sound nice but not have good intentions, and people who discipline us actually do so for our own good.

I also like the way the cardinal functions as Lee's conscience.  As Lee follows her more and more, he can hear her better, but when he ignores her and goes his own way, her voice becomes fuzzy and gradually fades out.  

What I Dislike:  I was confused about Miria.  She was portrayed as a child, a ghost, and an angel who was missing part of her wings.  I don't understand how she was captured or what the significance of freeing her was. At first, she was a bit creepy, so it was hard to shift my attitude and like her in the end.

I also was disappointed we were given so little characterization of Milthorn.  He was the true hero, and the Christ-figure in this allegory, but we didn't get to know him well at all.  I felt like I knew and understood the black fox much better.  I would rather spend more time thinking about Jesus (portrayed as Milthorn) than Satan (the black fox).

There were some distracting grammatical errors.  Also, the reproductions of the pictures blurred some of the shading and lines, and made many of the pictures indistinct.

Overall Rating:  Ho-Hum. This is a great start, but could use some polishing.

Age Appeal:  8-12

Publisher Info: ShadeTree Publishing, LLC, 2011; ISBN: 978-0-98226232-4-2; Paperback, 114 pages, $12.99

Buy it at for $11.04.

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