So today’s book review isn’t actually written by me. Just to show what a family affair this challenge has been, today’s review is written by my lovely husband, Jonathan. As a book for slightly older children, today’s tester is 10-year-old George who did me an amazing book review! I think I might be out of a job with these two today!
Today’s book is The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner, translated from French by Joe Johnson (Roaring Book Press).
George: It’s all about a fox who stole chicks but loved them. I loved the bit where the fox was a live dummy for the chickens. It made me wonder whether this would happen to real animals. Overall, this book was awesome and the pictures were fantastic!
“Who’s afraid of… The Big Bad Fox? No one, it seems.” Such is the inability of the fox in Renner’s comic book story to strike fear into the hearts of other creatures that even a captured bird prefers to be eaten by the ruthless wolf than by the hapless fox (“If I have to get eaten, it might as well be by a creature with flair.”).
After a series of increasingly pathetic attempts to capture and eat any chickens, the fox and the wolf ‘hatch’ a plan to steal some eggs from the farm. The plan almost fails, but the fox’s perceived harmlessness for once works in his favour and he manages to return to his lair with three eggs. All is going according to plan until the chicks hatch and latch onto the fox as their mother.
The book then focuses on the comic attempts by the fox to rear the chicks for a future meal, even to the extent of making them sleep in a cooking pot. The chicks, however, have other ideas. This section deals entertainingly with a lot of issues that will be familiar to any parent: the chicks refusing to sleep, making too much noise, not making enough noise, bombarding the fox with inane comments, and so on.
Meanwhile, the chicks’ mother, frustrated by the guard dog’s unwillingness to properly investigate her chicks’ disappearance, forms the “Fox Exterminators’ Club” to train up the hens to deal with a future fox attack. This provides for a perhaps surprising level of cartoon violence reminiscent of old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Examples include a dummy fox being decapitated with an axe ‘off-screen’ and then rolling into the cartoon frame, or the hens attending a lecture on “100 ways to eviscerate a fox” (“So, you take a fox and a drill, and then you…”).
Things come to a head when the wolf suggests that the chicks are now big enough to eat. Can the fox go through with the original plan, or has he grown too attached to them? How can he and the chicks escape the wolf’s clutches? And will the hens ever get the chance to put their rigorous military training into practice?
The illustrations are wonderful and the dialogue is witty; together this imbues each animal with a lot of individual character: the ill-fated fox, the belligerent hen, the apathetic guard dog, the sardonic wolf. It is a hefty book but it draws you in and keeps you interested. It certainly has at least one of the characteristics of a great children’s book: it is a great read for adults!