- Paperback: 104 pages
- Publisher: Puffin Books; Film tie-in ed edition (Sept. 1 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141327774
- ISBN-13: 978-0141327778
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.6 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 99.8 g
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,991,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Fantastic MR Fox Paperback – Sep 1 2009
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In the tradition of The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, this is a "garden tale" of farmer versus vermin, or vice versa. The farmers in this case are a vaguely criminal team of three stooges: "Boggis and Bunce and Bean / One fat, one short, one lean. / These horrible crooks / So different in looks / Were nonetheless equally mean." Whatever their prowess as poultry farmers, within these pages their sole objective is the extermination of our hero--the noble, the clever, the Fantastic Mr. Fox. Our loyalties are defined from the start; after all, how could you cheer for a man named Bunce who eats his doughnuts stuffed with mashed goose livers? As one might expect, the farmers in this story come out smelling like ... well, what farmers occasionally do smell like.
This early Roald Dahl adventure is great for reading aloud to three- to seven-year-olds, who will be delighted to hear that Mr. Fox keeps his family one step ahead of the obsessed farmers. When they try to dig him out, he digs faster; when they lay siege to his den, he tunnels to where the farmers least expect him--their own larders! In the end, Mr. Fox not only survives, but also helps the whole community of burrowing creatures live happily ever after. With his usual flourish, Dahl evokes a magical animal world that, as children, we always knew existed, had we only known where or how to look for it. (Great read aloud for any age; written at a 9- to 12-year-old reading level)
"This reprint of the 1970 edition tells the story of clever Mr. Fox, his adoring wife, and their four small children, who outsmart three of the nastiest, ugliest, and ultimately dumbest farmers ever to raise poultry. Librarians will want to consider purchasing this newly released edition."--Booklist.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The major children's writer before JK Rowling was Roald Dahl, who boasted few of these virtues, offering children cruel wit, and a morbid, often murderous mistrust of parents, adults, education and authority in general. He also implied that children could be malevolent and destructive. Parents hated him - I had to discover Dahl through friends; my mum bought me Enid Blyton. There was always the thrilling feeling that you were doing something illicit or conspiratorial reading Roald Dahl.
The hero of 'Fantastic Mr Fox' is a thief, a violater of property and business, and a murderer and torturer of animals, traits unlikely to endear him to the English middle classes. On the other hand, he rejoices in family values, still endearingly in love with his wife, and a great father. Under impossible odds, he tries to save his family and a host of other animals from the cruelty of three vile farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, who are sick of the varmint's nocturnal sorties for their produce.
First they try to shoot him, but only pepper his tail (a deliciously gruesome episode). Next they dig into his tunnel, but he can dig faster. They use huge mechanical diggers, turning a hill into a valley. They try to starve him, surrounding the area with weapon-wielding minions.
The story of 'Fox' is very simple with few twists and turns. The impact, however, can be traumatic, and not just for young children - I read this to my wife (as you do), and we both got very anxious for our heroes, faced with the terrifying industrial might of the farmers. The irony of the story is ecological - while trying to save a few goods for business, the farmers nearly destroy the countryside and an entire animal network; the fox can only do what is natural, which is steal and kill (to which Dahl is faithful with admirable unsentimentality). The image of the three farmers waiting, possibly forever, at the hole for the fox to starve, is chilling and close to Beckett.
Once again, Dahl gets a great deal of pleasure in frightening his young audience, and his way with alliterative insults is as delightful as ever, while Quentin Blake's scribbles, though not part of the original book, are now so synonymous with Dahl's world, it's impossible to imagine it without them.
Our loyalties are well-defined early in the story, and even despite real-life contradictions, we end up rooting for Mr. Fox and cheering for him as a symbol of good, while at the same time allowing Boggis, Bunce and Bean to symbolise evil. At the part of the story where Mr. Fox's tail is shot off, we feel extremely sorry for our hero. The story takes an unexpected twist with the three farmers showing their greed with their tractors and their fierce measures to get Mr. Fox out of his hole, and is one of those instances where Dahl shows us that greed and selfishness are undesirable in society. But they don't realise the cleverness and handsome nature of Mr. Fox in actually winning the battle by finding a most unusual way into their own larders, where they don't want him to be, and we end up cheering for him in the end during the feast.
Overall, I find that this book is sure to be counted among Roald Dahl's best, and he is certainly right in calling it his best-balanced book. This can be recommended to even older readers and not just to the young, at whom the book is aimed.
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It's good for beginning reader to try to read a chapter book.