Mr. Fox and friends in "Fantastic Mr. Fox." (Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Roald Dahl

Best for age 7 and older. 81 pages.

In a story involving a thief and three hardworking businessmen, whom would you expect to be the hero?

Think again, because in the hands of Roald Dahl (the author of such classic children’s stories as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach”) nothing is as you would expect.

So the fox, an animal often shown in children’s literature as cunning, deceptive and sneaky, is all those things in this story. But he is also a loving husband, father and friend. Sure, he steals, but Dahl makes sure the reader has no doubt as to who the real villains are in this tale.

Those three hardworking businessmen are farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean, and they are completely unlikable characters. Bean, for example, never takes a bath, with the result that “his earholes were clogged with all kinds of muck and wax and bits of chewing-gum and dead flies and stuff like that.” The threesome gets tired of the clever Mr. Fox stealing their chickens, turkeys and geese. So they set out to catch him in the act — and they almost do, trapping Mr. and Mrs. Fox and their four fox children in their den.

We don’t want to give away what happens next, but this book can stir lots of conversations about what is truly right and truly wrong, and when being “determined” turns into being “foolish.”

— Tracy Grant