The book about nothing and everything
Nothing happens in this book. There are illustrations of running and jumping, but no intentional movement of a journey. There are four key characters – the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse – but no fleshed-out history of these characters. In fact, there’s not even a plot, just a series of images and moments sewn together upon some paper. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy seems to be just another kid’s book, meant to hold a short attention span at most.
But, there’s just something about this book. Something about these characters, these images, these moments that make you pause and stare at the page for 10 times longer than it took you to read that page. This book is about nothing in particular, instead deciding to be about everything. It addresses universal truths of human nature that speak to adults as well as to children.
Mackesy creates these four characters who become sudden and unlikely friends. They are united by their sorrow, their hurt and their musings about life – all of which contribute to a growing love they acquire for each other.
They don’t do much besides meet each other throughout the book (although you can tell they are on some sort of journey by the images of their travels), but you quickly become invested in their lives. These characters, three animals and a young boy, have real and relatable problems; they have you saying to yourself throughout the course of the book: that’s me.
The format of this book is aesthetically pleasing and artistically personal. Mackesy begins the book with a personal note to the reader, but the semi illegible scrawl of the text feels like the book itself is a note to a special friend – the reader – and that the author is merely sharing with his friend a little tale that’s been on his heart.
The simplistic illustrations paired with the relatability of the characters quickly endear the story to you, until the sketches of the early spring scenes and the comforting friends become familiar.
Growing up, and even into my early years of college, I often saw myself as the fox: quiet, hurting and unsure (although I had not yet read this book and did not yet have an image to accompany my self-conception). It was comforting, therefore, to read it and realize I wasn’t quite so alone, for here was an author putting my fears into words, into drawings, into characters.
This book was not made to make you feel like another predictable animal of instinct, but instead it was made to make you feel seen as an individual soul. You are not the fox, nor the horse, nor the mole, nor the boy alone, but a combination of these, and then some.
So here’s the aspiring wisdom I would like to add to these comforting pages: rejoice in your fellow humanity and the kinship that comes from sharing another’s nature, and likewise rejoice in the nature of you, the unique makeup of body and soul that sets you entirely apart. As the horse says, “You bring to this world things no one else can.”
This book is made up of aphorisms, little truths of life that hit close to the heart. The reader might think, “Am I so predictable? Am I so indistinct from others that my life may be reduced to a few words on the page of a children’s book?” Nonsense.
This book shows you that suffering, loneliness and uncertainty are struggles that we all grapple with in life, and are all part of the journey of life. It’s trying to show us we can be united in our suffering and love others and ourselves better because of it. It shows us that “asking for help isn’t giving up, it’s refusing to give up.”
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’’ by Charlie Mackesy shows us it’s alright to hurt and it’s alright to feel lost. The person next to us is secretly hurting and lost, too, so the bravest thing we can do is ask for help, and the greatest thing we can do is love.
I originally bought this book to read with my young nephew, but if you are in need of comfort and relation such as your fellow humans are, it’s also the book for you. So, track down one of the three copies residing in the condos and settle in for the shortest comfort read of your life.