Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Findus and the fox

Posted on | July 28, 2011 | 12 Comments

Recently I’ve been feeling rather guilty here on the blog as my Reading Round Europe tour has been on hold now for far longer than I would have liked. I can assure you I haven’t forgotten it and I will be continuing with it… it’s just that so many other good things keep popping up along the way (like this, this and this).

One of the reasons I’m determined to pick up where I left off, is that through researching the Reading Round Europe posts I’ve discovered some fabulous authors and illustrators I’m pretty sure I would not have come across otherwise.

Swedish Sven Nordqvist is a case is point. Back in January I reviewed two of his books, Pancakes for Findus and When Findus was Little and Disappeared and today I’m buzzing with excitement because I can bring you a third Findus and Pettson story – Findus and the Fox.

The bottom line is simple: This is a story with heaps of humour and so much warmth at its heart that its hard not to want to hug the book when you’ve finished reading it.

But if you want to know a little more about it… Pettson, a slightly crazy old bachelor farmer lives with his deceptively clever cat Findus. One day their neighbour Gustavsson visits to warn them that there’s been fox in the neighbourhood stealing hens. Gustavsson is determined to shoot the fox.

“So you think the fox will come here tonight,” muttered Pettson.
“That means we should lock our hens up now, eh Findus?”
“You should lock up Gustavsson,” said the cat. “I don’t trust men with guns.”
Don’t you think he should shoot the fox?” asked Pettson. “Otherwise it will come and eat our hens.”
“Foxes shouldn’t be shot,” said Findus. “They should be tricked.
That’s what I do.”
“Mm, I bet you do,” Pettson chuckled. “But I agree, Findus. It’s a shame to shoot foxes. We’ll work out how to frighten it off, so it won’t want to eat a hen ever again.”

And thus Pettson and Findus start work on a grand plan to frighten the fox.

First they create a decoy chicken stuffed with pepper. Not certain this will do the trick, they wire up a string of fireworks around the farmyard ready to set off and startle the fox when he tries to run off with the booby-trapped chicken.

Just like two big kids with an idea fizzing in their head, the plans don’t stop there but get crazier and even more outlandish. To be certain that the fox gets spooked off for good, Pettson and Findus decide their pièce de résistance is a zip line down which Findus will fly dressed as a ghost shouting at the fox.

Night falls and the farmer and his cat wait for the fox. Gingerly the fox, “a thin little thing, with a limp” does make an appearance. Pettson feels sorry for it, so he doesn’t light the fuse but rather holds back. The fox cautiously approaches the decoy chicken but then scuttles behind the house and sits still surveying the scene.

Next thing we know, the night sky is ablaze with fireworks, lights, bangs, wailing ghosts and an almighty hullabaloo. But who has caused it all? Who has been frightened off, never to kill an animal again? The poor hungry fox or the gun-toting Gustavsson?

The crazy, utterly over the top, slapstick behaviour of Findus and Pettson will have any fan of Buston Keaton or Laurel and Hardy hooting with laughter. Kids will love seeing the plans get bigger, better and bolder. Like children Findus and Pettson see no barriers to their creative ideas – anything’s possible (especially with Pettson’s shed filled with a kaleidoscope of bits and bobs, squirrelled away for some rainy day project).

Nordqvist’s illustrations are as funny as his stories, full of vignettes that will make you and your kids smile and want to spend even longer just looking at the pictures once the tale has been told. Look out for the recorder tree, the astronaut and Findus punting amongst other things. The details are divine.

A book about creativity, kindness and a respect for animals, this is a book to pick up when you need to brighten your day. It will undoubtedly make you feel better but be warned – it may put some rather fantastic and extravagant ideas into your kids’ heads!

My kids’ crafty request in response to Findus and the Fox was to make some chickens of their own (yes, the did want exploding ones, but I told them they had to be older before we could experiment with detonations)…

We used air drying clay to create chicken-like basic shapes – one large dome for the roosting bodies, a smaller sphere for the head, and then a tiny pyramid shape for the beak. We glued these basic shapes to each other to be sure they’d stay together!

Before the clay was dry the girls each got a pack of craft feathers and stuck them into the dome of clay which formed the chickens’ bodies. As some of the feathers didn’t have very robust nibs we used cocktail sticks to make pilot holes into which we pushed the feathers. To help prevent the dome from collapsing I put a scrunched-up ball of silver foil underneath each one.

Once the feathers were in and the clay was dry the girls painted their chicken to complete the look. Don’t say they look like peacocks or some other exotic jungle bird! I don’t want grumpy children – these ARE chickens, just the most flamboyant ones you’ll ever see ;-)

Music we loved whilst making our chickens

  • The Fox, sung here by Mark Ereli, and here by the Nields – both lovely versions that we adore.
  • The Wisconsin family folk duo Fox and Branch, whilst not foxes themselves, create lovely music to listen and dance to – highly recommended!
  • I know a chicken by Laurie Berkner (great if you’ve got those shaky egg percussion instruments).
  • I have to admit we’ve also been watching and dancing to this video, which we stumbled across because the band has “chicken” in its title!

    Other activities which could work well alongside reading this book include:

  • Transporting objects on a zip line – I like this mini zip line from Alleyoop.
  • Making your won ghosts – here’s a ghost windcatcher from Fun4Kids, a texture ghost from No Time for Flashcards, and a ghost on a stick from ArtMind.
  • Drawing fireworks with inspiration from Art Projects for Kids.

  • Like my Reading Round Europe project, what’s on your back burner that you’re determined to find time for in the coming weeks and months? What book has been languishing in your to-be-read pile for too long?

    Disclosure: I received Findus and the Fox gratis from the publisher, Hawthorne Press. This review, however, reflects my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    12 Responses to “Findus and the fox”

    1. Stacey
      July 28th, 2011 @ 1:57 am

      We just finished reading a Poppleton and Mr. Putter and Tabby and I found myself wishing for some new friends like these. Sounds like Findus and the Fox might fit the bill! Thanks for the introduction!

    2. Zoe
      July 28th, 2011 @ 6:28 am

      Thanks Stacey for your comment – it always cheers me up to see a comment from you first thing when I wake up! I do hope you can find some of the Findus and Pettson stories – they’re really very funny, and the illustrations are brilliant. Let me know if you do find one of these books!

    3. Barbara
      July 28th, 2011 @ 6:50 am

      Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your review. (found you via Twitter and am now following) I love the sound of this book and will be looking for a copy for my granddaughter.

    4. Zoe
      July 28th, 2011 @ 7:12 am

      Hi Barbara, Wow, I’m really glad to have discovered you! Your (online) bookshop looks like a sweetie shop to me – it’s making me very hungry :-) Looking forward to sharing more books and book ideas with you!

    5. sophie
      July 28th, 2011 @ 10:24 am

      We found a pettson and picpus (or findus, depending on the area…) film at out library. It’s gorgious. It’s really like the books. Pettson and picpus have to wait in an igloo because of a violent snow storm and they remind good souvenirs to hold on in their freezing and frozen “house”. In their souvenirs there are most of the book stories. I could not find an english version but it may exist :
      http://www.amazon.fr/Pettson-Picpus-minou-vraiment-filou/dp/B000083G9V/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1311844549&sr=8-3

    6. Zoe
      July 28th, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

      ooh sophie…. thank you! This looks wonderful. Perhaps I can findj it in Dutch…

    7. sophie
      July 28th, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

      Thanks to libraries ! They are a real mine !

    8. Ali B
      July 28th, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

      I love the idea of this book! It reminds me a little of Quentin Blake’s Mrs Armitage On Wheels, with the ideas getting bigger and more outlandish. I’ll be looking out for this!

    9. Lynette Mattke
      July 29th, 2011 @ 1:45 am

      How nice to read your review of Findus and the Fox!My sister and her family just introduced me to Findus this summer, and now we all love him, of course. I produce and publish children’s picture books as mobile book apps on the iPad, and several people have been been telling me that they’d like to see Findus meet even more kids with a digital version!

    10. Zoe
      July 29th, 2011 @ 6:44 am

      Yes, Ali, the comparison’s a good one!

      Lynette, they’re definitely books that deserve a wider audience I believe :-)

    11. Read Aloud Dad
      July 30th, 2011 @ 1:25 am

      Findus and Pettson … the fantastic duo.

      Leading critics (my 4-year old twins) give them the highest marks! Both my girl and boy adore them – and we’ve got four Findus books in our home library.

      Nothing but the highest praise for this smashing series from me as well.

      Read Aloud Dad

    12. Zoe
      July 30th, 2011 @ 7:15 am

      Hooray for Findus and Pettson Read Aloud Dad!

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