XO, OX: A Love Story

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
XO, OX: A Love Story Book Poster Image
Sweet, clear-eyed look at how honesty helps love grow.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the nearly lost art of writing letters and the subtleties of talking about sensitive, personal matters with pen and paper rather than in person or via texting. Positive messages regarding what it means to love another.

Positive Messages

Relationships with others enrich our own lives. Honesty, while not always flattering, can make a friendship stronger. Strong messages about patience, having faith in others, and appreciating the others' complexity.
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ox is stubborn -- naturally -- and patient. He thinks the best of Gazelle, even when she shows her faults: When she declares she could never love him, he loves her more for admitting one of her faults. Gazelle is cold at first but gradually gets drawn into the correspondence. Her rejections are unkind yet honest, making her change of heart that much sweeter.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that XO, OX: A Love Story is a charming, unconventional romance by Adam Rex (School's First Day of School) and Scott Campbell (Hug Machine) told through a series of letters. Humble, plainspoken Ox is repeatedly rebuffed by self-centered Gazelle, but he continues to write to her fondly even when she tells him to stop. But don't worry: The vibe is warm and friendly, not creepy. There are some excellent opportunities for parents to talk with kids about friendship, kindness, and honesty and how to tell if it's worth persisting when someone doesn't seem interested in being friends.

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What's the story?

XO, OX: A LOVE STORY begins with Ox's first letter telling Gazelle how much he admires her: "Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers." She has her assistant respond with a form letter and a signed photo. His second letter gets the same response. By the third letter, Gazelle begins to pay attention. As Ox continues to praise Gazelle, he hints that she isn't perfect -- a comment that really rocks Gazelle's pedestal. She responds rather unkindly, hinting at his own faults and then declaring she could never love an animal so stout, ungraceful, and, simply, "unlovable." Ox is undeterred, and Gazelle shreds his letter and photo. But then she smiles and picks up a pen. "Dear Ox," she begins.

Is it any good?

For clumsy, kindly Ox and glamorous Gazelle, it certainly isn't love at first sight -- but their slowly evolving relationship turns out to be a far more romantic (and appealing) love story. XO, OX: A Love Story shows earlier assumptions and romantic notions giving way to more realistic, honest communication, with wonderful results. Amid the love and laughter are some great opportunities for talking with kids about kindness, empathy, and honesty.

Scott Campbell's watercolor-and-pencil artwork -- sage greens, coppery pinks, and rich browns -- warmly complements Adam Rex's charming letters. The ending might seem somewhat open-ended, but attentive readers will appreciate the change in the endpaper design: Instead of gazing in mirrors as she did at the book's start, at the end she's joining Ox to paint, rake leaves, enjoy music, and even sip from matching mugs. Awwwwww.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way XO, OX: A Love Story presents the idea of loving someone despite their faults. How is this different from the way romantic love is usually shown?

  • Why do you think Gazelle begins to think more kindly of Ox?

  • Do you think Ox should have obeyed her request to stop writing?

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