The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy 2019

My wife received this book as a gift and it had sat on our family room table in Vermont for months before I picked it up one day and glanced through it.

What I found was a self-help book disguised as a children’s fable, or perhaps more appropriately, a self-help book disguised as a children’s book.  With Mackesy’s delightful line drawings filling the pages, a font that looks like a cross between Chinese calligraphy and a child’s printing, and simple epigrams about kindness, love, help, friendship, etc on every page, it’s easy to understand that the book became a best seller and was named the Book of the Year by several booksellers in addition to being short listed for the British Book Awards Non Fiction Lifestyle Book of the Year in 2020.

I generally break out in hives and start wheezing when confronted with a self-help book other than serious meditation volumes, but this one worked and I loved it.  A boy meets a talking mole and they’re joined by a talking (though not much) fox and a flying horse.  Excited yet?  Stick with it because through their conversations, much wisdom emerges and the drawings are delightful.  Here’s my personal favorite conversation:  “What is the bravest thing  you’ve ever said?, the boy asked the horse.  Help, said the horse.”

The message is no different that that of Pema Chodron (see Book #2943) and a thousand other ‘be nice’ books from our touchy-feely, self-help culture, but this one, perhaps because it’s framed as a children’s book really works.  However you approach the book and life, the main message echoes the words of Henry James when describing the three most important things in human life :  Kindness, kindness, kindness.  Our world needs more of this very badly.