Children’s stories need to be fun, entertaining, memorable and easy to read so when it comes to children’s books and children’s authors one name always springs to mind that matches those qualities – Roald Dahl. Born over 100 years ago Dahl is still read and enjoyed today by millions around the world, he even has Roald Dahl Story Day, an annual celebration of his stories!
In 1970, before I was even born, Dahl wrote and published a story about a very cunning creature, you may even have seen one for yourself, the red fox. We all know that foxes are perceived to be shy and cunning creatures and in Fantastic Mr Fox he shows just how cunning he can be when he outwits three greedy, mean and cruel farmers who want to kill him!
Fantastic Mr Fox is a story about the anthropomorphic Mr Fox and his family; Mr & Mrs Fox and their children of four small foxes. Foxes are scavengers and will eat anything, but Mr Fox and his family aren’t city or urban foxes and have the luxury of living in the countryside with their den under a big tree in the woods and surrounded by three well-stocked farms. These farms belong to three different mean and greedy farmers, one fat, one short and one lean: Farmer Boggis has a farm full of plump chickens, Farmer Bunce has a farm full of juicy duck and geese and Farmer Bean has a farm filled with turkeys and apples.
Living in the woods there are no shops for Mr Fox to visit to get food for his family, he has to rely on scavenging, hunting and poaching. Fortunately, with three well-stocked farms on his doorstep he has plenty of food he can steal to keep his family well fed.
But the three dim-witted and mean farmers have had enough of Mr Fox stealing from them and constantly outwitting them with his trickery and cunning and a feud between Mr Fox and the farmers ensues.
A story of countryside conflict begins. Farmers vs fox. A tale of the farmers determination to kill Mr Fox by whatever means they can; shooting, digging him out and destroying his home or even starvation. It is also a tale of Mr Fox’s cunning and trickery to outsmart the three farmers and still feed his family and all their woodland friends.
Overall, Fantastic Mr Fox is a delightful tale of greed versus nature. Whilst I didn’t think there was as much dark humour and wit as in some of Dahl’s other stories it is still a fun and entertaining read. It is not a fluffy read, it does have lots of scheming and violence that might scare the youngest of readers, but it is not too graphic or too scary, but does add tension to the tale – the farmers use guns and shoot Mr Fox’s tail off, Mr Fox kills chickens with a quick snap of his jaw etc. but the violence doesn’t go into any real detail and these events get passed over quickly with ease.
It is a good story of the ugliness of greed from the three gluttonous farmers and the cunning and trickery of the fox, as well as the friendliness and unselfishness of Mr Fox. A short chapter book where readers will be routing for Mr Fox, the heroic father who is doing everything his can to rescue his family from mean farmers, gunfire, starvation and death.
Note: If you have a fox problem, please don’t try any of the efforts used by the three mean farmers in this book, visit https://fox-a-gon.co.uk/ for help and advice. Whilst some people consider foxes to be vermin they aren’t, and have never been, actually legally classified as vermin. For more information visit https://foxproject.org.uk/foxes-and-the-law/).
Not as funny as some of Dahl’s other books, but still an entertaining read. Mr Fox is a delightful character full of charm, trickery and cunning who clearly loves his family and friends and will do anything for them.
And the last I heard, the farmers three were still camped outside a fox hole waiting for Mr Fox to show himself – I wonder if they are still there.
RRP: £9.99 (Hardback) / £5.99 (Paperback) / £3.49 (Kindle)