Fantastic Mr. Fox

fantasticmrfoxby Roald Dahl
First sentence: “Down in the valley there were three farms.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s simple. So, even though there are no children as protagonists, it’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

The plot is simple: Mr. Fox steals poultry from the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Who, according to the book, are awful, ugly (of course), greedy people. So, they decide that they will make it their business to get rid of Mr. Fox. But, he proves too clever by half, the end.

I really don’t have much more to add, since my opinion of it hasn’t changed in six years. But, I do want to mention the book group discussion. It was a LOT of fun. First off, the kids liked it a LOT more than I did, deciding that it was just a lot of silly fun. In the process of prepping for the book group, I came across this website called Teaching Children Philosophy. And they had a module on Fantastic Mr. Fox, which proved to be the jumping ground for a really interesting discussion. Which almost made the meh book worthwhile.

It’s been a LOT of fun doing the Dahl book club this year. The kids were great, and the discussions a ton of fun. Hopefully, I can find something just as grand next year.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

by Roald Dahl
ages: 8 to 11
First sentence: “Down in the valley there were three farms.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!

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.