Fantastic Mr. Fox

by Roald Dahl
ages: 8 to 11
First sentence: “Down in the valley there were three farms.”
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I’m not quite sure what I expected when I started this. It’s Dahl, so something weird, obviously. And Hubby’s been raving about it for years: it was his favorite Dahl as a kid. So, something… fantastic, hopefully.

And so I was surprised at how little I liked it.

It’s not that it was bad or poorly written. It was fine; it’s Dahl after all. But… perhaps that’s the problem. It’s very Dahl. On the one side of the ring are three horrible farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. They’re disgusting, they’re mean, they’re… well, horrible. And on the other is Mr. Fox and his family — wife and three kids. They have to eat, of course, and what better catch is there than the ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys from the horrible farmers. So, Mr. Fox (being a fox), steals them for his family. The farmers get wise, and eventually try to catch Mr. Fox. They shoot his tail off, and then stake out his house. Mr. Fox (being a fox), is much to wily to catch, and he and his family dig ever deeper into the hill. There ensues a huge siege by the farmers; eventually the foxes will starve and come out, right?

And this is where the weirdness starts. Mr. Fox gets his friends — Badger, Rabbit, Mole — and they start digging. Amazingly, they hit right in the middle of each of the three farmer’s storehouses, creating a grand feast for all of the now-trapped underground animals, and so they never, ever have to go outside again. And… that’s it. That’s the story. It’s short, it’s for younger kids, but I’m not satisfied.

Really. That’s it. Huh.

I like Dahl’s weirdness, the fact that the horrible people get their comeuppance. But, there just wasn’t enough to this story. It wasn’t developed enough, even for a middle grade book, and it just ended, which was highly unsatisfying.

Sigh. Some books were just meant to be read as kids, I guess.

2 thoughts on “Fantastic Mr. Fox

  1. Interesting. I loved Dahl as a kid and was quite shocked as an adult to find out he was not a very nice man. My parents bought me a box set of his books for my last birthday. It will be interesting to re-read them as an adult.

    On a side note, have you seen the recent film adaptation of the book? Very different in many ways but very, very good. We shared the cinema with a school group and they hardly laughed at it. The film appeared to be very much aimed at the adult market (at one point, Mrs Fox is referred to as the town bike!).


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