I teach creative writing and love helping my students improve their technique.
An Illustrated Book About Friendship
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse began life as a series of pen-and-ink drawings that Charlie posted on Instagram. There was a heartfelt response to his sketches; the illustrations and linked narrative touched a nerve for many people. A surprise bestseller, this cartoon-like novel is about love, friendship, and being kind to one another. The four characters muse upon life and its uncertainties. The little boy and his three animal friends are curious about life and how they will cope. Their down-to-earth conversation reminds me of Winnie the Pooh and his endearing philosophy. This book affirms the importance of friendships and honesty in life.
The plot of the book is simple enough; four friends take a walk. The physical events that happen on the stroll are minor. The friends' discourse on the meaning of life and the journey of their friendship serve as the major happenings in this story. Each of the friends has a distinct character. The boy is uncertain and questioning; the mole is philosophical and supportive; the fox is mostly silent as befits a predator, and the horse just gets on with the task at hand—keeping to the path and not stumbling.
The last year has been pretty tough for many of us, and we have tried to draw strength from different sources. One book that has helped is 'The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse' by Charley Mackesy. Despite writing it months before the pandemic hit, Charlie’s words and illustrations have resonated with millions of readers globally, including Oprah.
"Sometimes I feel as though I haven't done much," said the boy.
"You've got up and carried on" said the horse, "which is brave and magnificent."
— ITV website
The Sunday Times Bestseller and New York Times Bestseller
Within days of publication, this book topped the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. It doesn't fit neatly into existing categories; some booksellers list it as a child’s novel, while others put it into philosophy and ethics. I think it fits into the self-help and life lessons category. The artist-author leaves it to you to decide.
Charlie Mackesy describes the book’s characters as follows. "The boy is full of questions, the mole is greedy for cake, the fox is mainly silent and wary because he's been hurt by life. The horse is the biggest thing they've ever encountered, and also the gentlest." There’s something in this tale for everyone; and it's especially relevant now with the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We all need a little more love and caring from each other.
It’s easy to identify with the hopes and dreams of the four cartoon companions. They wonder about their life, and what the future holds. They worry about whether they will be missed after passing. They hold friendship dear, and hope their friends feel the same way about them. Like them, have you ever eaten a slice of cake to cheer yourself up? Have you ever been hurt or frightened, or wanted to be liked or to be loved? Then this is a book for you. It has a feel-good, soothing quality that makes it a perfect gift for these strange times.
About Charlie Mackesy
Charlie Mackesy's career has included working as a cartoonist for The Spectator magazine, and as a commercial illustrator for the Oxford University Press. His thoughtful and imaginative drawings led to commissions for art galleries, public bodies and charitable organizations. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, with its down-to-earth characters and memorable sayings, has attracted millions of new fans to his work. Charlie was born in Northumberland, England. He didn’t attend formal art school but instead honed his artistic skills in the university of life. He has lived and worked in Africa, America, and Europe. He now lives in London, UK.
Is This a Book for Children or Adults?
The book has elements that appeal to both children and adults; the illustrations are delightful and will be loved by all ages. But the overall plot is thin, and the storyline may not hold the attention of younger children. The strength of this book lies in its philosophy, and pragmatic homilies on overcoming life’s obstacles.
The design of the book makes it look like it is an artist’s sketchpad, and as such the letters and typeface may be difficult for a child or not so confident reader to decipher. If a clear font edition became available that would help widen the potential audience. On balance, I would buy this novel for an adult rather than a young person. It is a book to treasure and keep coming back to, time and time again. In uncertain times, there is reassurance in knowing that others experience self-doubt, and are able to overcome it.
How Many Copies of "The Boy, the Mole and the Horse" Have Been Sold?
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a lavishly illustrated book with over 100 black-and-white and colored drawings. Beautiful to look at, this volume could be described as a “coffee-table” book with attitude. But it’s much more than that; its folksy wisdom stays with you long after the book is put down. It is visually impressive and includes facsimile pages of the artist’s original cursive writing as part of the design concept. It’s a book for dipping into rather than reading in one sitting. Each page is a delight with a detailed sketch and some wise words to savor.
The book achieved instant success. Published in October 2019, by the end of the year it had sold 250,000 copies in the US and UK. By May 2020, more than one million copies had been sold. More than 5,000 book reviews for it had been uploaded to the Goodreads website by September 2020, with an average reader rating of more than 4.6 out of 5.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.