Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books as a kid, and though I'm not one to reread books, I've read this one dozens of times.
First, you've got an author who is the master of craft. He feels like just another kid and so you want to listen to what he's got to say. He uses language that is familiar to us, doesn't demean us, but rather like he's inviting us in on his adventures. Second, you get the ultimate enticing tale of the clever fox outwitting the evil humans. It's so simple yet so effective. Dahl presents us with a cast of characters, animals literally living below ground, which the kids won't understand is a metaphor, but the adults reading the book aloud will. And this cast is lovely: on the one hand, you have Mr. Fox, a loving dad and husband who just wants to provide for his family, Mrs. Fox, who dotes on her kids, their four Small Foxes, and Badger, Mole, Rabbit and Weasel, and on the other hand, you have the three farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, who are as terrible and ugly and mean as their names sound.
The story begins with the focus entirely on Mr Fox and his family. Because he has been stealing from Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, he has brought the fight directly to their fox hole. Unknowingly, this has also brought the fight to his neighbors. So Dahl's cleverness is not only his portrayal of the rich versus the poor, but also the individual versus the community. What consequences occurred because Mr. Fox was only thinking of himself and his? What are the consequences of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean owning so much and giving away so little? What happens when the animals underground run into Rat who has learned to coexist with the nasty humans? And in the desperate race to protect what each of them own, what happens to the physical environment around them?
Enjoy the story for its clever fox and his clever games. Come back to the story for its clever metaphors and its clever truths. And come back again and again for the reminder of what's at stake and what really matters.
To read more of Shea’s book reviews and author interviews, writing tips, prompts, and memes, find her on her blog Shea’s Bookshelf.