The boy, the horse, the fox and the mole

by Charlie Mackesy

Hardcover, 2019



Call number



London : Ebury Press, 2019.

User reviews

LibraryThing member tapestry100
This is really a difficult book for me to review. Is it touching? Yes.

Is it inspiring? Of course it is.

Is it gorgeously designed and illustrated? There is no question; this book is gorgeous.

Have you already read every page of this book in every inspirational post or meme you've ever seen on social media? Absolutely. And therein lies my problem.

There's nothing very original in this book. For me, it feels as thought Mackesy scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and pulled random inspirational quotes he found and created a "story" around them. A boy goes on a journey of self discovery, befriending a mole, a fox, and a horse along the way. As they journey together, they all reflect on life and its meanings and possibilities, and it's all just so damned inspirational (this is true, it is), but it just feels like it has all been done before. Just not this beautifully. And that is the beauty of this book.

Mackesy's illustrations are stunning. The loose sketch and ink style he uses is a treat for the eyes (even if his blotching handwriting is sometimes hard to decipher). The splashes of color throughout pop the illustrations even more. I'm glad I own this book, if for no other reason than to pour over these illustrations from time to time.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse really is a beautiful book. Should it have had the end of year praise that it received from so many circles (Best Book of the Year!) and whatnot? In my opinion, no. But that's just me. My job requires me to be on social media more than I'd like, so I get inundated with these types of posts a lot, so for me it felt a little overkill. Yet, it remains a gorgeous book and worth reading and enjoying.
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LibraryThing member linda.marsheells
If I could buy a copy of this book for each of my friends, I would. Powerful, meaningful and simplicity in such a short story!
A book of love.
LibraryThing member jphamilton
This book isn’t on my shelves, it was a Christmas gift for a loved one—one that I had read four times before I finally wrapped it. I get many newsletters, reviews, and personal notes from publishers, authors, poets, and bookselling friends from all over. I started hearing about this book long before it was in the form of a book, back when it was scattered sketches and words on Instagram, where it went viral. By the time I bought it as a gift, it had been on one hell of a trip. It had become number one on the bestseller list, was the book of the year for both the Waterstones and Barnes & Noble chains, and acclaimed as one of the premier gift books of the year. The book was up against other finalists like The Nickel Boys and Margaret Atwood.
The book is special in many ways. Physically, it a special hardcover, filled with nice quality paper, some very stylized drawings, and a very special hand drawn text. The text is loose, much like a fable, but it’s not limited by its style to any particular age group. It brought tears to the young girl/woman I bought it for, as well as to myself, someone almost five times her age.
I know an area bookseller who I respect, and as we discussed books, he picked this book up and told me that he was sold on it because by about page four, one of the characters spoke of his goal in life was to be considered kind. Being kind is big in my life. I think we all need to work towards making the world a kinder place. It’s that obvious kindness and sensitivity that lead people dealing with patients suffering from PTSD and other like conditions, to start successfully using those Instagram images and words.
Charlie Mackesy, the book’s British author/illustrator has been a cartoonist and graphic novelist, as well as a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. While living in Africa, he helped many low-income people in Zambia become beekeepers and lift themselves up economically. He has also worked with Nelson Mandela and Comic Relief on other projects.
I became rather fixated on the book and its creator, watching a number of different online interviews and stories. The image that sticks in my mind is the man working in his leafy and cluttered backyard at a small table. He was quickly creating those rough and sensitive sketches with black ink, as the leaves fell and blew around his feet. It’s probably not the technical and legal definition of organic, but it was so natural.
I’m not going to tell you the story, as the entire book is only 128 pages, and the word count on most pages is under twenty words. The book is a special experience; one that I wish Vicky could have had before she died. Make the effort, find the book, and check it out.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
Lovely little book of affirmations that somehow manages to fall more to the side of earnestness and kindness than sentimentality. Mostly thanks to the beautiful gestural ink and watercolor illustrations and brush lettering. It's a really nice package, with a gentle animal-centric theme. This was a good note to end the year on.… (more)
LibraryThing member -Eva-
Lovely and positive book about friendship, hope, and love. The illustrations are fantastic.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Well, this is exactly what it purports to be...a gentle incentive to love yourself, be kind always, and eat cake whenever possible. The drawings are exceptionally appealing; they have a not-quite-final look to them that goes well with the message that we are all works in progress, and it's OK if some of the rough edges still show. The book is simplistic in style and philosophy, but sometimes that's what's needed, like cake.… (more)
LibraryThing member jfe16
Charlie and his friends --- the mole who likes cake, the silent fox, and the gentle horse --- are four characters in a modern fable that explores kindness, friendship, and life as they inspire and bring hope in a precarious world. Its gentle wisdom, dispensed in a handwritten narrative and enhanced with lovely drawings, reveals truth and provides readers with much to contemplate. Complexity becomes simplicity in this unputdownable missive that belongs on everyone’s must-read list.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member John_Warner
One day a little boy meets a mole, befriended by a fox and a horse, and learns a series of life lessons. These lessons have been mirrored by many positive psychology advocates. Victor Frankl's existential therapy is reflected when the boy learns that "we choose how we react to things." Scott Peck's opening line in The Road Less Traveled, "Life is difficult" is introduced with positive messages to put one foot after another when life becomes tough going, to ask for help, and to forgive yourself. Finally, the best admonition is that we exist "to love and to be loved."

All these concepts are presented in a beautiful way with beautiful script and illustrations. As the author indicates, this is a book for readers of any age.
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LibraryThing member justagirlwithabook
Oh, my heart. This book.

Quick story time: I stopped at a local bookstore to grab a book for a dear friend’s birthday on the same night we were all meeting for dinner. I didn’t have a book in mind but hoped to find one with the little bit of time that I had. I saw this one at the front when I walked in, sitting on a little presentation style table and a sign declaring it one of the best books of 2019 (how did I miss that?). I ended up standing right next to that table reading the whole book from start to finish, unable to move and entirely mesmerized. I didn’t need to look any further; I had found the perfect book for this person.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, I slipped my little card inside the book and presented it to her right away (I couldn’t wait until AFTER dinner, could I?). Before we knew it she was practically reading the story aloud to everyone at the table, gushing over each part, tearing up at all the heart-warming places, and telling our other friend that he needed to purchase this book.

Between the beautiful images, the friendships that are forged between the animal characters, and the thoughtful and intentional word choice, I just don’t understand how a person couldn’t stand to fall in love with this little, mighty book within minutes of cracking it open. It’s a Pooh sort of book for modern times, and it is definitely worth a read, whether old or young or in between.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
A lovely book that I stumbled upon with no previous knowledge of its popularity. The illustrations are charming and it's accessible for any age. It reminded me so much of "The Little Prince".
LibraryThing member ThomasPluck
A sweet, beautiful book.
LibraryThing member passion4reading
This is a charming and beautifully illustrated book. If you imagine the illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard (for the Winnie-the-Pooh books) set to the text of The Little Prince, then you've got a fair idea of what this book is about. It tells of the friendship between the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse in simple, positive and inspirational sentences, though I thought the story was rather disjointed, and maybe a little too heavy-handed on getting the message across. I feel there could have been subtler ways that wouldn't have given the impression that everything said in the book was profound.

I adore the illustrations. They're less childlike than the illustrations for Winnie-the-Pooh and The Little Prince, but they exude the same simplicity, charm and beauty as the others.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
If A. A. Milne were forced to spend a year reading nothing but Hallmark cards and inspirational Facebook posts, Winnie-the-Pooh might have turned out something like this piece of junk.

The pictures aren't bad, but the handwritten text with its mix of cursive and print can be difficult to read at times. And once you have sorted out the words, you are left with the inanity of their meaning.… (more)
LibraryThing member kglattstein
A simple book of hope that will remind you of the goodness in humanity.
LibraryThing member AR_bookbird
What a sweet book!!!
LibraryThing member bell7
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a series of conversations between friends. Instead of reading it from cover to cover, you could jump in almost at random and read an aphorism. The drawings are mostly rough sketches - for example, the horse is often drawn with the lines to create the haunches still showing - only a few have color or appear "finished". The statements are simple, yet true and affirming, and overall the collection gives a lovely picture of a friendship of love and acceptance. A nice, quiet read to contemplate in the middle of challenging times.… (more)
LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
This is a charming picture book for children of all ages, great for parents to read for themselves or read to their kids. It is a story of friendship, confidence, loneliness and fulfillment.

It is beautiful.
LibraryThing member KimMeyer
This is so sweet.
LibraryThing member oddandbookish
I received this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (TLC Book Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.

This book was absolutely amazing! I loved everything about it.

The story is very simple but very profound. There are lots of little pieces of wisdom sprinkled throughout that really hit me hard. For example, this was one of my favorite passages:

“Sometimes I feel lost,” said the boy.
“Me too,” said the mole, “but we love you and love brings you home.”

It reminded me a lot of Winnie the Pooh in the best possible way. It had the same innocence and spirit.

Even though this is such a short book, I fell in love with all 4 of the characters. I particularly loved the fox because even though he was very silent, I still felt his impact.

The illustrations in this are gorgeous. They’re whimsy and magical and just perfect, especially when accompanied with the handwritten text. The text was stylized so beautifully, they almost become part of the pictures.

Honestly, I think everyone should read this book. It’s such a comforting little book that everyone can benefit from reading. Young or old, everyone at every age can enjoy this.

Also, since the holiday season is approaching, this would make the perfect gift.

Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I LOVED this book and recommend it to readers of all ages.
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LibraryThing member ericlee
OK, I’ll confess: I don’t get it. The illustrations are lovely. The message is nice. It might work as children’s book, but for adults? I’m not so sure. And yet the book is mega best-seller and people seem to love it.

There is no real story here, just a series of Hallmark-style aphorisms about how important it is to love and be loved, to be kind, etc. Everyone is special. We should all be nice. And that’s about it. I wouldn’t recommend this book to an adult.… (more)
LibraryThing member OscarWilde87
Oh, what a wonderful little book this is. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is about friendship, and life. The artwork in this graphic novel is outstanding and the text is fabulously life-affirming. A recommendation to everyone. 5 stars.
LibraryThing member kimkimkim
And the mole wants cake.
LibraryThing member lukespapa
A heartwarming and uplifting kid-like book for adults. It is affirming and positive - just what many of us need after a year in lockdown and political turmoil.
LibraryThing member ladycato
A quick read, and yet one also done slowly. This book, with eloquent inks and watercolors by Charlie Mackesy, is a meditation on friendship, kindness, and fortitude. I've always been something of a cynic, but right now, I'm feeling that way more than ever. (Those "we're all in this together" kinds of ads make me incredibly angry because they are LIES.) For some reason, though, the pithy wisdom and positivity of this book didn't aggravate me. Maybe that's because of the sheer beauty of the illustrations, or that a horse is involved. In any case, the words made me smile rather than scowl. This was a good way to start the first day of 2021.… (more)
LibraryThing member LindaLoretz
Someone said that I sounded pessimistic. This book is a great pick-me-up for returning to a more optimistic state of mind. The simple things in life have to remind us of hopefulness.

Original publication date




Local notes

Inscription: In memory of Rob Bennett - Who welcomed me to The Quakers at Orrong Road, Toorak. Rob was a friend and forever an inspiration. Ross McIntosh Jan. 2020.

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