The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. There are some gently handled scenes of implied violence as the hens organize a collective defence, and one image of the wolf popping a bird into his mouth and eating it. Originally published in French, the book is brilliantly translated by Joe Johnson, with humour and slyness fully intact. The original illustrations by Renner are rendered in watercolour. They are small, with several to a page reading across in several rows, rather like comic book panels but unbordered. Both text and images read very naturally. The laugh-out-loud humour is easily appreciated by all ages, though the length makes it appropriate for independent readers. However, it could easily work as a bedtime or lap story with pre-reader over several days. Expect some award nominations for this delightful caper. My thanks to publisher First Second Books for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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