Newest Review: ... farmer, Bunce, the duck and goose farmer, and Bean, the turkey and cider farmer. Over 81 pages we follow Mr. Fox as he outwits the farm... more
Fantastic Mr Fox - Fantastic of course
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Roald Dahl
Member Name: PaigeTurner
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Roald Dahl
Advantages: Great story of animals outwitting humans
Disadvantages: None unless you count the fact some characters are raving alcoholics
Fantastic Mr Fox is a cracking little tale for children of all ages and has a few surprises up its sleeve for adult readers as well.
In writing Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl employed a range of classic techniques commonly used by children's authors to engage young readers - namely rhyme, repetition and the power of three. No where else in Dahl's back catalogue does he so evidently employ such techniques other than in his 'poetry' like Revolting Rhymes.
In this respect Fantastic Mr Fox makes for the perfect book for a primary school aged child to learn to read aloud.
At the same time, I cannot recall a Dahl book which so blatantly weaves adult subject matter into the text. To prevent alarm I had better clear this up immediately - I am alluding to the consumption of alcohol and getting drunk. But even so...
Few little ones will realise what is really meant by the fact Bean the farmer lives on cider alone. As soon as I read this section out loud to my daughter recently I turned to my husband with raised eyebrows. His look showed the same recognition - Bean is a drunk. I had no idea about this when I was little and first read the book.
That is how Dahl is so clever. He knows he can get away with such references with children because they will be none the wiser - cider is a lovely drink made from apples - but it will give the adult reader a chuckle. Dahl also paints Bean as the cleverest farmer. Is he trying to say cider lubricates the brain - controversial.
Dahl even dices with the dubious territory of under-age drinking as the small foxes take a huge swig out of the cider jar and enjoy its effects. Even sensible badger admits he enjoys four glasses a day - one at each mealtime and one before bed.
Fantastic Mr Fox is ultimately the story of a clever fox outwitting three farmers. The three farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean - see there we have alliteration, repetition and the power of three - are furious at Mr Fox's constant thefts of their chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. As a result, they plot together to stop him once and for all by killing him.
Dahl doesn't hold back on their intentions for the benefits of little ears. They end up holding Mr Fox, the whole fox family and all the animals living nearby under siege in at attempt to starve him out. But Mr Fox is too resourceful for that. Whilst the three farmers stand guard over the entrance to his home, he is busy digging his way further underground, making tunnels direct to their store houses, for a supply of food on tap.
Mr Fox shows his supreme cunning by stealing only enough to meet his families and friends needs. He does this to avoid detection but also to show he is not as bad as his adversaries. If we as a reader believe Mr Fox is going wrong by acting like a whiskered Robin Hood, we are corrected through an exchange between Mr Fox and Badger. Mr Fox tells Badger it is OK to be doing what they are doing because it is no crime at all compared to the farmers' crime of potential murder.
Dahl never feels he has to hold back on the gruesome details in his books despite them being aimed at children. He makes it clear the siege has gone on so long the animals are close to death, while I even winced as an adult over the fact Mr Fox loses his tail. It is shot off by one of the farmers and Mr Fox brazenly tells his children it is never going to grow back. In many other children's stories a miracle would happen which would see Mr Fox's tail restored, just to soften the blow - that is if the author dared have it shot off in the first place.
Dahl's love of grotesque detail is very much present and 'incorrect'. He revels in descriptions of the filth that lives in Bean's ears as just one example.
I very much enjoyed Fantastic Mr Fox. It is an ideal story to read out loud. The text has a very good rhythm to it, allowing the rhyming sections to work seamlessly in with the rest of the prose. The concept of the story is tremendous fun, there is a good dose of humour and some really good values such as the importance of family, love, generosity and resourcefulness.
Just watch for that moment in an older child when they start to twig the adult nuances weaved into the text. I can hear it now from my daughter in the future - "But mummy, if Bean lives on cider does that mean he gets drunk all the time?"
Summary: A fantastic book about a fantastic fox with some fantastic surprises along the way
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