Nasty and rich, three farmers fanatically pursue a thieving fox as it escalates its thievery to benefit its family and community.
First, we meet three poultry farmers whose bad character lies only in their wealth and distasteful habits. Mr. Fox, the caring 'little guy', feeds his family by stealing from the farmers. Incensed, they resolve to kill the fox at all costs. Lying in wait at the fox den fails. Shovels fail. Steam-shovels arrive. Tension rises. Will the foxes always dig farther? This entertaining story may be useful for parents to show their children the nature of immorality.
Mouseling Angelina's focus on dance helps her be more responsible and, ultimately, a ballet star.
Angelina skips and dances wherever she goes, with little regard for her other chores and good behavior. Finally, when enrolled in ballet class, she settles down, does her chores and trains. We are then just told that she trains for years and becomes famous. Though it is a happy ending, the implicit message seems to be that parents should just give in to a child's dream and the child will ''transform'.
With prejudice, Moonbear and Bird want a pet to grow into their own kind, but when it becomes a frog they realize they were wrong.
Bear's new pet 'Splash' seems to be a fish, until she sprouts limbs. In 'racist' disagreement, Bear and Bird expect her to become their own kind. Their friendship dissolves, so Splash is returned to her pond. Later, Splash proves to be a frog, who suggests everyone should just be friends. And so, they are. Bear and Bird's (contrived) behavior is foreign to the audience age group. Further, Asch presents friendship as an empty platitude.
Mathew dreams a night-time 'adventure' involving a tow truck operator, red licorice and a yellow van, then wakes to discover his misplaced yellow, toy van.
Though one of the more popular Matthew's Midnight stories, this fantasy is fantasy without redeeming value. At supper-time young Matt wants red licorice and finds he's misplaced a yellow toy van. In bed he dreams of helping a tow truck driver at night, one who provides red licorice and who shrinks cars for storage. He gives Matt a shrunken yellow van, which of course is in Matt's coat pocket in the morning. Children deserve more in fantasy.
The animals of Redwall abbey joyously prepare a surprise feast for their abbot, a wise old mouse.
As the abbey animals are preparing a surprise feast for their beloved abbot, he conveniently leaves on a 'quest' –his afternoon stroll. Jacques's descriptions of the preparations, the stroll and the feast, in 101 six line stanzas, are quite marvelous. Unfortunately the sometimes quirky animal characters have no purpose, save as fantasy cooks and imaginary denizens of the abbey. Denise's appealing illustrations, reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, cannot resuscitate this ultimately dull story.
Abdi carries the Queen's gift, but when thieves secretly replace it with a snake he is jailed, so only Eli and magic can save him.
Abdi's learns that even impossible tasks come for a reason and are "for the best". He transports Eli's impossibly perfect necklace to the King in an impossibly short time. But the box holds only a small snake, so Abdi is jailed. Then Eli convinces the Queen to try on Abdi's snake. Madonna's intended theme, "skill & perseverance bring unimagined success", is fatally undermined by her use of magical solutions to Abdi's real world problems.
Maddie's dull, workaholic community comes to life when an unaccountably magical box brings forth The Arts.
The author's dedication to the book quotes Socrates: "Beware the barrenness of a busy life." Not surprisingly the story shows hard working villagers as sad and empty. It is the children's discovery of a magical chest that transforms the village to art, music, literature and dance. Yet, without an underlying rationale for real Art, this repeats the shallow view that productive effort conflicts with 'leisure' values. And, what does that say about the real value of Art? Pockets by Sally Armstrong offers a more profound approach.
Mama's desire for the Italian countryside is eased when her daughter wins magic morning glory seeds that 'flower' the neighborhood.
In New York's Lower East side, Mama longs for the Italian country side. The family goes to Coney Island where the heroine wins a packet of seeds. The magic seeds spread immense morning glory* vines over all the neighborhood buildings, making everyone happier. The positive theme —take pleasure in simple beauties— is undermined by the preposterous, hardly simple, growth of the flowers; and the lack of a real solution for Mama's melancholy.
* It is odd that the author chose the Morning Glory, as it is not native to Italy.
Chester the Turtle feels un-loved. Though he decorates Easter Eggs, it is Peter Cottontail's secretive delivery that is appreciated. Chester 'disguises' himself as a rabbit, to steal and hide the undecorated Easter Eggs himself. Peter finds out and, sensibly, has Chester sign each egg he decorates. Unfortunately, Chester's envy and spiteful decisions are not presented to children as poor behavior, In fact, not only is Chester forgiven, he is rewarded for his wrong doing (an appeasement similar to many American Foreign Policy decisions).
The son of two Easter-Egg artists' develops his own style and they go on vacation.
Rabbit Easter-Egg artists let their son develop a style of his own when he shows interest in painting. The complications and details of an unnecessary family vacation pointlessly overwhelm the theme of the young artist's self discovery.