Book Review: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is authored and illustrated by Charlie Mackesy and published by Penguin Books.

The impression I had when I first flipped through the book was, "Oh, another illustrated book with feel-good life stories and philosophical quotes." It is a nice book not I did not expect this book to be that popular. When I looked online for more information, I found out it was on #1 New York Times Bestseller, Wall Street Journal Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller. It's totally unexpected.

This book has even more reviews than any single copy of Harry Potter. I just don't understand how that is possible. This book was published in 2019 and at the time of this review, it has over 74,000 reviews on Amazon. It's a nice book, I must say that again, but I don't understand the mass market appeal. It's incredible.

The story is about a boy, who met a mole, then a fox, and later a horse. It's about them hanging out in the countryside (you don't see other people) and talking about life, philosophy.

Below are some quotes from the book to give you a better sense of what this book is like:

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" "Kind" said the boy.

"If at first you don't succeed, have some cake."

"What do you think is the biggest waste of time?" "Comparing yourself to others." said the mole.

"One of our greatest freedom is how we react to things."

"Often the hardest person to forgive is yourself."

"Doing nothing with friends is never doing nothing, is it?"

"Everyone is a bit scared, but we are less scared together."

"Asking for help isn't giving up. It's refusing to give up."

"The greatest illusion is that life should be perfect."

The artworks are nice. They were loosely drawn with pen, ink and watercolour. The drawings have a children-book style to them. They also look like drafts or rough sketches for more polished illustrations. The style suits the subject matter. And all the text were handwritten.

There are 128-pages in this hardcover. You can go through this book under an hour.

It's a nice book but I still don't understand why it's so popular. Perhaps that's got to do with the fact that the author has 470,000 FB followers, 140,000 Twitter followers or 1.2 million Instagram followers. His huge following on Instagram could explain the popularity of this book. These philosophical thoughts and feel-good meaningful quotes work surprisingly well on Instagram.

I still can't get over the fact that this book has more reviews than Harry Potter. Wow.


This book was borrowed from Basheer Graphic Books for review purposes. You can order the book from them. Check with Basheer on Facebook.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | AU | JP | CN)

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This book was borrowed from Basheer Graphic Books for review purposes. You can order the book from them. Check with Basheer on Facebook.

I'm so with you on this one!

I really like the artwork a lot, but it feels like you've been eating too much frozen yogurt after a while. It's so close to the real deal, yet it's just too light.

The whole book is like a weird combo of Winnie the Pooh and social media memes - and it's not really that deep.

Dear Teoh Yi Chie,

As a huge reader of books across a wide range of topics for 55 years, with my home library containing over 4500 volumes, and former bookstore owner, I wonder if you'd mind sharing the list of books you've authored and where I might buy them?

I ask because I want to know what qualifies you to criticize a book that for ANY reason, none of which any of us HAVE to understand, has brought millions of people around the world, including at least one US Military Hospital (you know, one of the places that treats our war heros, who I assume you wouldn't want to question about their book preferences?) apparently endless amounts of pleasure in whatever form they needed it? Are you implying that a book with a simple concept and words that don't rank with great philosophers like Seneca can't, or based on your astonishment, SHOULDN'T be able to bring anyone any sense of comfort, joy, peace or hope, relative to whatever emotional state they may be in? Or if it causes someone to think about their kindness, or lack thereof, to others, that would be a bad thing? Let's say you're 40 years old (likely closer to 20) and your wife left you. If a friend comes by to comfort you in your devastated state, are you saying it would be impossible for his or her words to comfort you unless your friend read words of wisdom written by Homer, Seneca, Plato, The Dalai Lama, or maybe the Pope? And further, if your compassionate friend offered you genuine, sincere words of comfort like, "I'm sorry Teoh, but everything's going to be fine," or, "You don't know this now, but one day you'll be glad this happened," would you kick them out of your home for being too simplistic, or because their words didn't meet your strict academic standards for comforting someone? I wonder what a doctor says to a patient dying of cancer? Do you think he or she would start quoting words of comfort from Longfellow?

If you agree that your comments were rude, inconsiderate and frankly insulting to millions of people that DO love this book, many of which "might" HAVE BEEN readers of your blog, then maybe you should post an apology?

And last, what are YOU doing to make the world a kinder, more compassionate place to live? You can reply that list along with your own list of authored, Pulitzer Prize winning books.

Warmest regards,

A fellow human


In reply to by Jay Statham (not verified)

@Jay Statham
I've not authored any books nor have any intentions to do so.

In case you misunderstood my review, the summary is I enjoyed the book but I don't understand why it's so popular. I like the art which is why I featured it in the first place Side note: there are billions of things I don't understand or know.

Different people have different preference for books. There are awesome artworks out there that I don't like or understand, e.g. abstract art. Just because I like/dislike the book doesn't mean others should follow my recommendation.

The goal of my book reviews is to make sure that people know what book they are buying and can expect. Whether I like or dislike the book is secondary.

By the way, I've written reviews that are clearly negative due to misleading book titles. And people have told me they still went on to buy the book because despite the misleading titles because they actually like what's in the book.

I've the same review on Youtube and many seem to like it as well.

PS: Rude is when I say I can't tell the front or back of a human figure in a figure drawing book. And I've done that to help people save money.

In reply to by Teoh Yi Chie

I understood what you were saying, but in spite of your spotty positive comments, the overall review came off negative, not that any reviewers' comments would deter the purchase of a book that millions of people rave about. To the degree your reviews are respected by others, and I don't know, either way, to say several times "you don't understand why it's so popular," to me at least implies that, in your opinion, it's of such little value, you don't understand why it's sold so many copies internationally.

There are millions of books, movies, sports, clothing trends, foods, tech products (like the "Metaverse," explain THAT one), or any other product or service that become wildly popular for no logical reason, which generally means they didn't follow the "rules of popularity" for their particular field. In the end, no one person will determine a product or service's popularity; it will be decided by the consumers.

Personally, I think we should celebrate a product or service that defies logic, attracts millions of buyers, and no matter the reason, manages to make the world a little better to live in, not only for the direct buyers themselves but for all of those with whom they relate that may benefit from their different demeanor, attitude or perspective based solely on the fact that a simple book, with beautiful drawings and a simple message, unencumbered by complex theories or philosophies that have to be pondered for days to be understood, if they ever are, was able to reach them and impact their lives in a positive way, without being lost in translation. In doing so, they may become a slightly better person to themselves, as well as to everyone with whom they come in contact. With the state of our society being as it is today, where barely two people can agree on much of anything, it seems that we need more books like this one, and more authors that think and relate to people the way Charlie Mackesy does, where maybe a simple message is what we need to bring us all back together. Buddha was a man of few words, and most of them were simple concepts that anyone could understand, and they've stood the test of time. If more people put his words, Charlie Mackesy's words, the simple teachings of Jesus, or anyone else that's just trying to get mankind to slow things down a bit, simplify life down to what's essential, be more compassionate to all living things, including ourselves, and to treat everyone as their brother, then our society might just survive after all.

Respectfully submitted...

In reply to by Jay Statham (not verified)

Genuinely… what?
I bought this book for pretty art and hoped for a little bit more than facebook and instagram feel good quotes. Going to a war does not mean you have great taste in literature, neither does being middle aged and having read a lot of books. Anyone can publish a book with the right contacts and everybody can have a home library of 4500 dime-a-dozen books.

I think this review is very fair. I also don’t understand why it’s so popular. Also, concerning buddhism… hoh boy, you have got one coming… a single page of the dumbed down beginner’s version of getting into buddhism has a higher word count.

I feel like this book is trying to be the new “The little prince” and failing hilariously.

Kind regards,
An avid reader with a special interest for beginner-friendly books about buddhism and philosophy ;)

P.S.: To get into the teachings of buddhism, a great start is The Dalai Lamas Cat and The Art of Purring.

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