Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
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Intense, violent horror adventure is riveting and haunting.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The animals' living habits -- including how they hunt, the age young ones venture out on their own, and the ways they survive winter -- are all scientifically accurate.

Positive Messages

Never give up on yourself, be open to friendship, and persevere when things seems scary and out of control.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The mother foxes care for and protect their kits with their lives. Uly's dad is horrific, and a stark contrast to the loving confidence of his mom.

Violence

Almost a constant stream of terror and peril for the foxes, all within the realm of nature. Young foxes chased from their dens, sibling bullying, death, imprisonment, and the fox version of domestic violence. The father marks his vixens with a bite from their ear. He tells Uly's mom to kill him because he has a deformed leg. She sneaks away to keep all her kits safe. He later tells her he'll let her children live if she abandons them and comes to live in his den. At one point, he has one of her kits in his mouth and is going to kill her if the mom doesn't toss Uly off a cliff. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Christian McKay Heidicker's Scary Stories for Young Foxes, illlustrated by Junyi Wu, is a 2020 Newbery Honor Book. It's a gorgeously written, no-holds-barred set of intertwining horror stories centering on Uly and Mia, two young foxes separated from their litters and in constant fear of death. The book is layered and complex, combining themes of domestic violence, bullying because of a disability, shame, fear, and pain with the deep love between a mother and her kits, and the growing loyalty between friends. None of the violence or pain is gratuitous, though: The hunts, the methods of survival, the dominance of some and shunning of others are all accurate, and the violence is similar to that of realistic nature shows. This book is not an easy read academically or emotionally, but it's intensely rewarding and thought provoking.

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What's the story?

In SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES, fox kits Mia and Uly are separated from their litters and find themselves thrown into a dangerous world full of terrifying unknowns as they try to make their way home. Far from their dens, they have to navigate dense forests, open fields, river monsters, and homicidal humans, and other scary monsters that lurk in the dirt and snow. Beyond the environmental treachery, they have to face their own inner demons, the nagging self-doubt and emotional pain inflicted by their own families who might not even want them alive. The book is a collection of short stories told campfire-style to a dwindling number of fox kits, with each story blending into the next.

Is it any good?

Heavy, violent, and thought-provoking, this is the rare horror story that's also heartwarming. Scary Stories for Young Foxes takes readers on a terrifying ride, masterfully combining the feelings of inadequacy and fear that come from being rejected by family with the optimism and courage of young hearts. Uly's father's domination helps readers consider the complicated choices surrounding family violence, and his siblings' bullying because of his disability will hit sensitive readers hard.

Each story is complex and riveting, and while author Christian McKay Heidicker takes some time to get through the first few stories, the pace picks up midway. He weaves the tales together seamlessly, somehow bringing heart and depth to these harsh, terrifying adventures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Uly's mom made the choices she did in Scary Stories for Young Foxes. What would you do if you were in her situation and had to choose between your children?

  • Why do you think scary stories are so popular? What's fun about reading horror tales and seeing scary movies?

  • Have you read any books with human characters who behave the way these foxes do?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and animal stories

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