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Fantastic Mr. Fox

by Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (Illustrator)
Publisher: Puffin Books
Mass market paperback, 81 pages
Price: $6.99

No one does talking, dressed-up, civilized animal stories quite like the British. It's no surprise that when Roald Dahl (a brilliant British writer in his own right) finally wrote one, it was amazingly awesome and hilarious. Especially hilarious—Fantastic Mr. Fox features some of the best dialogue to ever exit the mouths of beasts, the Rat in particular.

It also features some of the meanest and weirdest villains in the history of children's literature. The farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, from whom Mr. Fox routinely steals chickens, ducks, and hard cider, enjoy two things: eating and trying to kill Mr. Fox. Boggis eats chickens, Bunce gorges himself on duck liver paste filled doughnuts, and Bean (the meanest) guzzles his cider; the Fox eats whatever he can get his paws on.

Which happens to be a lot. So much, in fact, that the farmers decide to get rid of the pest once and for all. They make a good go of it, too, even shooting off Mr. Fox's beautiful tail. But Fox isn't called Fantastic for no reason, and he uses every gram of wit, cunning, strength, and stealth he has to best the farmers in an all-out war.

He also employs the help of some other animals, though due to his wily ways it takes some effort to get them to see his side and want to join forces. But when he shows the badgers, rabbits and others how well he can provide for them, sneaking in and out of the farms at will while the farmers wait by his old hole for him to show himself, Mr. Fox becomes a hero.

This is essentially the trickster fable famous in most world cultures. For Africans the trickster is a spider, for Native Americans it's a coyote, and appropriately Dahl gives the British the trickster fox. It's difficult to tell what, if anything, he's trying to tell us through this tale, but it's certainly one filled with adventure, hilarity, and just plain zaniness.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

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