From Aesop’s Fables to the Fantastic Mr. Fox, stories of the complicated relationships between chickens and foxes have been told and imagined throughout history. The Big Bad Fox manages to find a new tale to tell with slapstick bravado. Author, Benjamin Renner doesn’t shy away from the tropes and pieces of the stories that we already know, fox digging into the farm, lazy farm dog who never catches him, etc. Instead, he uses these tropes to make us feel like we already know the story and then jerks the narrative in a new, unexpected direction.
Fox fails repeatedly at securing supper at the hen house. With the help of a sardonic wolf, he devises a plan to steal some eggs. At last he succeeds! His joy is quickly thwarted when he learns that he must brood the eggs. Determined to be a cruel master to the chicks when they hatch, fox’s evil plan is instantly thwarted when the chicks scream, “MOMMY!”
Fox’s friend wolf encourages him to allow the chicks to grow a bit before they eat them. During this time fox plays fox and chicken with the babies and they wrestle and cajole and fall in love. The chickens believe that they are little foxes which sets up a hilarious portion of the story when they are reunited with real chickens.
Renner has chosen to tell his story without the traditional graphic novel frames. Each segment of story is clearly delineated but not boxed in. This allows reader’s eyes to flow along with the story. One of the joys of this book is the forthright expression of emotions from the characters. They flail and coo, and wine and yell, and they do so with every piece of their bodies. One could write a detailed piece outlining Renner’s masterful facial expressions alone.
Author and Illustrator Benjamin Renner is no novice to storytelling. He was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category in 2014 for the film Ernest & Celestine. There is a full length feature film called The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales which is now released but is currently only available to view at select film festivals.
Benjamin Renner has accomplished a huge feat in telling a new fox and chicken story. Readers will finish the book and then want to start over again. This would make a fabulous snuggle read aloud for parents, or read alone for kids from age 8 to infinity.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication date: 6/20/17
Page Count: 187
Publisher: First Second :01