Whimsical, fun, and fancy free. Those are just a few of the words that I use to describe this, well, fantastic book. Another one of his well known classics, there is a lot to say about this Roald Dahl novel so let’s get started.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was written in 1968, and interestingly enough this is actually one of Dahl’s shorter works, coming in at only 96 pages. It was published in 1970 by two publishers, Alfred A Knopf in the United States and George Allen and Unwin in Great Britain. However, despite it being short it does not stop it from being a good read. I am sure many of you have discovered that with many works. The story gained its inspiration from, once again, the personal experiences of the author. (Any one else noticing a pattern)? The inspiration came from the area that Dahl was living in which was a village in Great Missenden, in Buckinghamshire, England. In this area there was a famous 150 year old tree, known as the Witch’s tree, and it was Dahl’s unique imagination which he imagined a family of very intelligent foxes living under the trunk.
The story itself has went on to take on other mediums, including an opera which premiered in 1998, and a beautifully made stop-motion animated film in 2009, directed by Wes Anderson. From personal experience, I have not yet seen the film in its entirety, but reading the book is a must. The characters have a connection with their audience because of their determination, wit, and relatable humour. Fun fact, in the original story, Mr. and Mrs. Fox do not have names, but were given names for the film adaptation with Mrs. Fox being given the name Felicity (in a way to honour Dahl’s widow, Felicity “Liccy” Dahl).
The story is centred around, of course, Mr. Fox, who lives with his wife Mrs. Fox, and his four little ones. In order to feed his family he must steal food from the horrible farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The farmers begin to get angry about the foxes and make an attempt to wipe them out once and for all, but luckily the foxes escape the attempt on their lives. Now faced with hunger and the threat of the farmers, Mr. Fox works to come up with a plan to sneak food back to their underground home. Through a series of tunnels, and with the help of their new Badger friend, Mr. Fox finds a way to out smart those peaky farmers and help save the day. The Farmers are never the wiser!
Classroom Connections (Primary/Junior Level 3-6 and beyond):
The power of doing something for those you love, bravery, standing up for what is right, and helping out those in need are all important values I believe we need to ensure our students know. A great way to do this, is to have the discussion with your class about right and wrong (though I would recommend waiting until you reach a junior grade or higher for more complex questioning). Have them write about a time when they had to be brave, or helped someone when they needed it most. Maybe it was for a family member, a friend, a neighbour, the poor? This connects well to both social studies and to language arts, because it gets them to begin thinking about what they believe, and practice personal writing and reflection strategies that will benefit them later on.
Another idea is to talk about the contrasting characteristics of the farmers Vs. Mr. Fox. What makes them different? Why do they react the way they do? Is there a reason?
Drama is great to integrate as well, having your students act our a scene where they need to create their own fantastic plan to get the food from the farmers. What would you do differently? Would you change the plan? What would your emotions look like in that type of situation? Lots of ideas you can go with here!
Once again, I will attach more resources below. If you have any suggestions please feel free to send them to me or comment!
Next on our Book Examination Series: The BFG