‘Fog a Dox’ is a novel for mid-upper primary and early high school by renowned Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe. It shifts between two main perspectives, that of Albert, a tree-cutter bushman, and Maria, a young girl with leukaemia. From the first line, Pascoe demonstrates his gift for intertwining language and characterisation: ‘Albert was a tree feller. A fella who cut down trees …. No one knew the bush as well or loved it more deeply.’ (pp 1-2) Meanwhile, Maria is confined indoors by her overprotective mother, but is desperate to roam the ‘hectic glory of the country.’ (p 109)
Young readers may reflect on the many points of view in the text, including characters outside their own experience, such as Brim the dog; Fog the fox; Maria’s single mother; the shy bushman, ‘Crazy Dave’, and the children who taunt him. There are insights into the way people judge and label Albert and Dave, when really they are men who ‘just keep to themselves and get on with their lives in private.’ (p 88)
This theme of public and private identity is explored repeatedly in the book. It is the central tension reflected in the title, ‘Fog a Dox.’ Fog is a fox who acts like a dog. From the day Albert saves the fox cub from death, his compassion for the fox as a fellow living creature overrides any misgivings he might have about its true nature. But still, ‘Fog is a fox. … We call him a dox so that people won’t kill him, but he’s a fox and one day he’ll go.’ (p 107)
Albert’s Aboriginal heritage is mentioned throughout the book, with some references to skin colour and hints of racial prejudice: ‘You see, my young dox-cub-pup, there are people who will hate you simply because someone else said you were to be hated. Never seen you before, never sat by the fire and had a chat with you, just determined to be afraid of you and hate you because you’re different.’ (p 48) The sensitive way heavy themes are explored, as well as the deep relationships between animals and people, is reminiscent of the British author, Michael Morpurgo’s work.
This book would be useful in a classroom setting to discuss difference; identity; outsiders; friendship; death; loss; animals and the bush.
‘Fog a Dox’ is a multiple award-winner:
Shortlisted, 2013 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards, Young Adult
Shortlisted, 2013 Deadly Awards, Published Book of the Year
Winner, 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award, Young Adult Literature
Bruce Pascoe is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man, and currently lives on his farm in Gippsland, Victoria.