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The Secret Life of the Red Fox

The Story Behind the Book

This is one of the most satisfying, rewarding book projects of my life (and this is book #116). Here are some reasons for these feelings:

(1) I love writing narrative nonfiction for young readers.

(2) Through the years I saw very few red foxes near my home in the woods. Then in 2014 we began to hear and see them a lot. A pair had picked some dens to raise a family not far from our house. Purely by coincidence, I began to write the book in April, and we had many foxy experiences from February through July.

(3) An artist was needed, and there was a lot of back-and-forth about that between editors and me. I didn't like the work of a couple they suggested. That May and again in late June, I was on the faculty of workshops of the Highlights Foundation. One of the students there was Kate Garchinsky--an accomplished artist who had not yet illustrated a published book. That summer I sent her the opening few sentences of my red fox book. She captured the mood and the look of Vixen the fox in the snow. I sent that to my editor and was pleasantly surprised, when I next visited her office: Vixen in the snow was posted on the wall by her desk.

(4) Kate was hired and everyone was pleased with her work. I remember one special meeting--a rare get-together of author, artist, editor, and book designer in December 2015. Then and later there were issues to settle, for example, how to show the key action in the book when Vixen is chased by dogs; and little factual matters that I cared about, like the footprints Vixen left in snow being the right distance apart for a walking fox. Kate even had the subtle, sweet idea of making fox tails out of the ends of some title letters on the book's jacket .

(5) We were fortunate to have Dr. J. David Henry, a Canadian fox researcher, check the writing and art of the book. And he is mighty pleased with how it turned out.

(6) I had the opportunity to dedicate the book to someone. Gee, who could that be? Then I learned that my daughter Rebecca was going to give birth to a baby girl in early November 2016. So my dedication welcomes her to the family and the world.

(7) Some early copies were in our hands in late August 2016, and we had a long wait until the book was officially published in March 2017. Meanwhile, Kate in Pennsylvania and I in New York continue to be eager to see fox tracks in the snow and listen for their wild calls. And we have become teammates, as she is the artist for further titles in the "Secret Life of..." series--by 2021 including Little Brown Bat, Skunk, and Sloth--with more to follow!