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Scary Stories for Young Foxes #1

Scary Stories for Young Foxes

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The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow . . . and other things too scary to mention.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published August 20, 2019

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Christian McKay Heidicker

9 books218 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 987 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.2k followers
December 31, 2020
[Book #5 for my grad school Children's Lit class]
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
December 3, 2020


this middle grade horror book is a hundred and a half times better and darker than anything i read during my own middle grade years.

it's a framed tale of seven fox kits who, one chilly autumn night, are hungry for scary stories—far scarier than the babyish ones their dear old fox mum knows.

in what may very well be a br'er rabbit anti-warning, she plants a seed in their little fox heads:

"Sorry to be a disappointment," their mom said, lying down. She paused and looked at the kits with all seriousness. "But you must promise that no matter what you do tonight, you will not go to Bog Cavern."

The kits' ears perked.

"What's...Bog Cavern?" the alpha asked.

"That's where the old storyteller lives," their mom said. "If you go there, you'll hear a story so frightening it will put the white in your tail."

so, obviously, as soon as she falls asleep, the skulk of foxen set straight off for bog cavern, where they do indeed meet the storyteller, who proceeds to tell them not one but seven terrifying stories over the course of the night. in-between each story, we witness his audience dwindle as, one by one, the kits slink back to the safety of their den until only the littlest fox remains to hear the final tale.

so the book is structured with a setup-introduction that leads into the seven stories, broken up by brief chapters (on black pages!) of the foxes' reactions to or commentary on to the stories, followed by a perfect ties-it-all-together conclusion that is equal parts chilling and heartwarming.

the stories may not be suuuuper scary to a grown woman, but they are certainly dark, and certainly terrifying to the fox kits as they are trick-or-treated to tales of unfortunate fox succumbing to nature's myriad perils: rabies, snakes, hunger, cold, rivers, badgers, rival foxes, as well as to the threats of man: traps, and—inexplicably—beatrix potter, who scoops up assorted woodland creatures to use as unwilling art models until she can draw them well enough to trap their souls in her paintings, before using their lifeless bodies in her whimsical taxidermy projects.


the illustrations are beeyootiful, creepily offsetting the harshness of the stories' situations

it's perfect for halloween, or any time, really, and—for adults—a fine companion read to Each Day a Small Victory and Ragged; or, the Loveliest Lies of All.

and now i learn there's going to be a SEQUEL next august??? in my BIRTHDAY MONTH? too good to be true.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
January 28, 2021
4.5 stars!


Final review first posted on FantasyLiterature.com:

One chilly autumn night, seven fox kits beg their mother for a scary story, “so scary our eyes fall out of our heads.” Don’t go to the Bog Cavern, she tells them, because the old storyteller lives there, and the tale she would tell them would be so scary it would put white in their tails. So naturally the seven kits scamper off through the woods to the Bog Cavern as soon as their mother is asleep, and beg the spooky-looking storyteller for a scary story.
“All scary stories have two sides,” the storyteller said. “Like the bright and dark of the moon. If you’re brave enough to listen and wise enough to stay to the end, the stories can shine a light on the good in the world.”
But, she warns, kits who lose heart and don’t stay until the end of the stories may lose all hope and be too frightened to ever leave their den again. Then she embarks on a series of eight tales. There’s a beloved teacher who turns into a gooey-eyed monster who attacks Mia and her brothers, the fox kits who adore her. There’s also Uly, a runt with a crippled forepaw and six cruel sisters who torment him … but they’re not as bad as the white-fanged Mr. Scratch. And more, including the underwater monster Golgathursh, a skin-stealing witch, and a creepy, crawling disembodied hand fox paw. The stories soon tie together to become one overall tale of the terrible — and occasionally good — adventures of Uly and Mia.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, a 2019 Newbery Honor book, is a little like a middle-grade version of Watership Down, except with foxes rather than rabbits, and a liberal dose of fox-type horror. Each of the stories in it riffs on a different classic horror trope. For example, the first story — one of the most horrific ones — is a type of zombie tale, in the form of foxes contracting rabies, turning into monsters, and stalking and killing other foxes. A sadistic fox father, with no patience or love for a crippled son, takes on the role of Dracula. Beatrix Potter assumes the role of a scary witch who captures wild animals, steals their essence by writing a story about them, and then kills and stuffs them. (According to Heidicker, Beatrix Potter really did do amateur taxidermy as part of her nature studies, but from the fox’s point of view, of course, it’s horrific.)

One of the main attractions of Scary Stories for Young Foxes is that, despite their close ties to time-honored horror tales and tropes, these stories are generally realistic. Each story revolves around a life-and-death situation that could actually happen to a young wild fox. Heidicker does take a few liberties with real life, though: rabies spreads between the foxes far more quickly than is natural, an alligator shows up in a part of England where it has no business being, and Beatrix Potter’s story here (aside from painting her as villainous, which is certain to offend some readers) diverges somewhat from her actual life history.


Scary Stories for Young Foxes is beautifully and evocatively told, with lovely and frequently creepy charcoal pencil illustrations by Junyi Wu. As the old storyteller said, there’s an affirmative message underlying the stories, but getting to the end is harrowing for both the fox kits and the reader. Foxes die. Baby foxes die. So it’s not for every reader, but for those who, like the bravest little fox kit, can stick it out, it’s a rewarding set of tales.

Initial post: My teenage son was sleuthing around on my Goodreads account for Christmas present ideas for me and landed on this one. Awww! So now I have a lovely hardback copy of this Newbery Honor book to read, with really wonderful illustrations. Can't wait!!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
860 reviews5,925 followers
September 4, 2021
All scary stories have two sides...Like the bright and dark of the moon.

Survival horror has a quick access to the fears inside us all, often asking what level of trauma would you be willing to endure to keep living. For humans this is often a creepy yet thrilling game of ‘what if’, but for the animal world much of their life is a constant be-on-the-lookout to survive. Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker is a middle grade novel that creates survival horror through the eyes of&dash;you guessed it—young foxes that will keep you up late clutching the book with white knuckles. It is certainly more effective than most horror I read as a child and has become a favorite for both myself and my daughter (who was 8 at the time we read it). The book starts as connected stories that slowly thread into a shared narrative with each episodic chapter framed as a different style of horror narrative but couched in the world of foxes and what would be terrifying to them. Combined with incredible graphite art that recalls the thrills of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this is a legitimately creepy story that also has a great deal of heart while showing the power of friendship in the face of death and also the importance of storytelling.

What really works is the genuine creepiness of the tales and the way each section plays on classic horror tropes. For example, a rabies outbreak is written like a zombie apocalypse, being stuck in the home of a taxidermist being a captivity horror something like Stephen King’s Misery, a monster horror scene and, perhaps the most menacing, a narrative about being in the clutches of a manipulative sociopath grooming young girls. If you are giving this to a younger reader, be advised that this doesn’t shy away from death, disfigurement or cruelty. But none of it feels over the top or unnecessary (it is horror and is meant to be actually scary and is the animal kingdom afterall) but it is disturbing. But mostly a LOT of fun. If you like this kind of thing, I was delighted by how well done it is here.

But it's a dangerous thing to start caring for someone else.

There is a lot of heart to this book and it will make you cry too, which I didn’t expect after how frightening it was. The primary message is that sticking together and taking care of each other is the way through all the darkness and dangers of life. The book is also charmingly framed as an elder fox telling scary stories to a litter of young foxes, returning to the present after each chapter to discover another of the foxes has become frightened and run home. It’s cute and recalls childhood storytelling and nursery rhymes that count down, like The 5 Little Monkeys or Six Little Ducks. But it also shows the importance of storytelling as a way to pass down knowledge or pass on warnings about the dangers of life. The oral tradition kept knowledge going for generations and that is really effective in this book.

If you're brave enough to listen and wise enough to stay to the end, the stories can shine a light on the good in the world. They can guide your muzzles. They can help you survive.

This is such a creepy delight and I would recommend it to both children and adults. A bit long at times but nevertheless a real page turner. It is also a perfect read for the Halloween season. Also, its all about my favorite animal, so maybe I'm a bit biased but seriously, this book is a terrifying treat.

Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,754 followers
June 14, 2019
Horror. Kids eat that stuff up with a spoon. At some point in a human life, a little switch gets flipped in the brain and suddenly, instead of dreading that moment at night when you clutch your bed sheets and pull them over your head, you seek it out. And book publishers, realizing that kids love scary stories, have turned them into a neat and tidy little industry. How else to explain the popularity of series like Goosebumps or the never-unpopular Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark? Actually, Goosebumps isn’t quite the powerhouse these days that it once was. Its gradual release on the industry is now allowing new books to sneak through the cracks. Whether it’s Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces, Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies, or Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm series, there’s something for every kind of horror fan. With all that in mind, a book with a title like Scary Stories for Young Foxes (featuring some seriously cute kits on its cover) seems like weak tea in comparison. Foxes? How scary can that get? Answer: Hoo-boy. Hold onto your hats folks. Turns out, what terrifies a fox can terrify a child just as easily. For some readers the fact that everyone here sports red fur will make the horrors a little better. For others, much much worse.

Seven little foxes are on the hunt for frightening tales. Their mother can’t provide the shivers they need so it’s down to Bog Cavern they go. Down to the storyteller who warns them right from the start that what they are about to hear could scare them half to death. Then she starts and the tales suck you in. In one we meet Mia, a kit whose family falls prey to a dangerous “yellow disease”. Then we meet Uly, a kit with only three paws, and a family so deadly it’s a miracle he’s alive. Seemingly disconnected stories are woven together expertly as Mia and Uly’s tales intertwine, separate, and come together again. Beware, gentle reader. These tales are not for the faint of heart. And once you start, you cannot stop until you’ve reached the end.

One concern I had as I read this book was the danger that Heidicker would play his hand too soon. The first tale, “Miss Vix” kicks things off beautifully, but was it possible that the scariest stories would be front and center and then everything would calm down as the book went on? To a certain extent that does happen a little. After all, once you’ve met the alligator in Kathy Appelt’s The Underneath, what can a Golgathursh do for you? But then everything picks up again at a furious pace. You have something invisible that’s stealing your children before your very eyes. You have the horror of a zombie paw that can’t be escaped. You have a badger that says things like, “Its sweat will only serve as spice.” And then there’s the fact that Heidicker has the ability to render the banal horrible. Now The Wind in the Willows and Peter Rabbit will always send a small chill down my spine. So long, innocent childhood!

All of which is well and good but I would be amiss in not mentioning that Mr. Heidicker turns out to be a very good writer. There’s a restrained humor at work, like on the very first page where you have a patient fox mother asking her kits (in what I consider a moment of admirable restraint) to “please stop biting my face children.” There are beautiful descriptions, like the first sentence of the first chapter: “The sun was only just peeking over the peachleaf trees, but the heat was already crisping the leaves and steaming the creek and making the dying fields too bright to look at.” Or descriptions that are short and sweet and to the point: “Her mom’s voice caught, like it had hooked on a thorn.” The older I get, the more I admire children’s novelists that take time to stop and invoke, even when they’re in the thick of their plotting.

I think a lot about what our fiction teaches kids today. To do that, I like to see how books connect to one another. Now the most obvious book to pair this one with is the aforementioned A Tale Dark and Grimm by Gidwitz. The similarities are undeniable. After all, both start out with fairytale like stories that can be seriously frightening and that seem disparate but that come together as the novel progresses. A series that may be less obvious to hand alongside Heidicker’s is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Look at all three writings and a common theme emerges. Middle grade fiction has always found parents and guardians to be unnecessary to adventuring, so they usually make the heroes orphans. But what these three creations do that is more insidious is tell us in no uncertain terms that if you are a child you cannot count on the adults in your life to protect you. If you are going to survive, don’t expect mommy and daddy to hold your hand. You need to be smart, quick, slick, and to pay attention. You need to use other people’s prejudices against them. Most of all, you need to keep going, even when things get abominably difficult. You’re on your own kid. It’s a good thing. Embrace it.

You can tell a lot about a book by its villains. Are they three-dimensional or just soulless killing machines? In a book of this sort, you’ve a wide array from which to choose. Do you consider the “yellow disease” to be a villain? Or the Golgathursh? There are a couple faceless baddies like that, but for the most part the bad guys that we get to know show all kinds of different sides to us. Take, for example, the only human in this book. Pretty much the moment Heidicker turned Beatrix Potter into the stuff of nightmares, I officially fell in love with this book. Her motives are pretty pure and I’m sure there will be plenty of folks who take issue with the characterization, but as far as I’m concerned this marvelous fictionalized Potter is every inch the villain we need. She is not without her reasons for why she does things, but at the same time she’s all the more terrifying for those moments when she gains our sympathy. Worse than Potter, however, is Uly’s father, Mr. Scratch a.k.a. Mr. Toxic Masculinity. The beauty of his rendering is that he’s just as physically threatening as he is emotionally dangerous. We do get a chapter where we see into his brain, and it offers us an understanding (sans sympathy) for this big bad. For me, he’s best when he’s insidious. Mr. Scratch’s grooming of Mia, for example, holds an element to it that adults will cringe from for reasons different than kids. Not many cult leaders in kidlit. Fewer still smelling of lavender.

At the end of this book, there is a small explanation about why we tell scary stories. In the case of the foxes, it’s to protect the young ones from a world they have yet to fully inhabit. Is that what we do with our own kids and books like this one? The horrors found here don’t have direct correlations to human life all the time, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying. Why do kids love horror so much? Why do we provide them with new scares every year? Is it to keep them safe, as the storyteller in this book implies? Maybe in a way, but perhaps it has more to do with the way in which a good story embeds itself into your cranium. Everything we read as children sticks somewhere, whether we remember the exact words or not. When kids read horror novels, they learn that villains can be escaped, beaten, outwitted, outrun. The ending of this book is happy, but in such a way that you understand that that happiness might be fleeting. No, little children. You cannot depend on adults to protect you. What you can count on is stories like this one, to give you the tools you need when the world lets you down. Terrifying and wonderful. A nightmare book you’ll want to return to repeatedly.

For ages 10 and up.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,807 reviews2,346 followers
July 14, 2020
"All scary stories have two sides," the storyteller said. "Like the bright and dark of the moon. If you're brave enough to listen and wise enough to stay to the end, the stories can shine a light on the good in the world. They can guide your muzzles. They can help you survive."

The author takes real vulpine fears like rabies, silver traps with teeth, humans looking for a fox's skin . . . and spins them into spooky campfire tales.


Like the moon, this book has a dark side. Many cute critters die. It is scary, violent, and intense. But, so are other books we consider classics. Kids are tougher than we think.
Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,655 followers
January 26, 2020
What am I supposed to do with my life now? Huh? Where was this treasure when I was 10? WHERE.

I'm salty (from bitterness as well as tears) and I hate you and I will get back to you tomorrow about all the reasons you need this book in your life, and all the reasons you don't—which are none.

RTC tomorrow

• • • • • •

Christian McLay Heidicker's middle-grade novel, a thrilling portrait of survival and an unforgettable tale of friendship.

*Sighs* why was this book not there when I was a kid playing on the moist and fresh grass, jumping in pools and shooting my brothers with water guns, tackling my poor friends and burying them under mounds of fallen leaves left in the park, and attacking the passerby with ruthless snow bullets???
Hmm? Why wasn't it there?

Alas, do not despair, the child in me is quite active, thank you, and is currently shouting at me to add this book!

And since she cannot be contained and I also have a tendency to indulge my inner 10-year-old self against whom I am utterly powerless, I'm adding this book to my tbr and my calendar, because there is nothing quite more precious than a well written and masterfully woven tale of scary truths of the world and hope for children :)
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
532 reviews34.5k followers
Want to read
February 21, 2020
Okay, you got me!

As a young sassy library fox there's no universe or parallel world in which I could have resisted this kind of temptation.

Fox stories!? Yes, please, thank you! XD

P.S: Is it just me or are there so many great new releases!? My TBR is growing again. 😅
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,633 followers
January 17, 2019
I love foxes. I just . . . I love them so much, guys! So every time I find a picture book about foxes, or there's a fox in any kind of book I have to have it, and I'm so excited! But then often sad. Not so much in the picture books, but in the middle grade books where foxes DIE all the time and it's horrible and unnecessary and full of moralizing and all Black Beauty-esque. (Seriously people, WTH? Let. The. Foxes. Be.)

I had decided after Pax that I would stick to picture book foxes, but then I found out that my friend, an amazing person and wonderful writer, was writing a book of connected stories about foxes. And I love Christian, and I trust him. His other two books have been YA, so I got a sense that this was a real pet project or labor of love for him, so I was even more intrigued. It's called SCARY Stories for Young Foxes, and I don't like horror, but STILL I trusted him, and I was not afraid to beg for an Advanced Readers Copy.

And I was right to trust Christian.

First of all, this book is GORGEOUS. Even though it's an ARC and some art might not be final, etc, the style of the art, both on the cover and the interior is perfect. There are black pages for the framing story, which adds such great atmosphere. And he's just absolutely nailed the fox mannerisms. They way they talk and move and describe things feels so real. It's a sensory-rich book, which really gives you the feeling that this is a story told BY foxes, FOR foxes, and we humans are eavesdroppers. And, yes, foxes die. Kit foxes. Adult foxes. Other animals as well. But none of the deaths feel gratuitous. This book clearly isn't written to have a Big Moral or just to be a Three Hanky Weeper. It's a story of adventure, and friendship, and love, and suspense.

And yes, it's a story about foxes. Adorable, wonderful foxes. Precious soft foxes who need to be cuddled. *wipes eyes on fox-patterned silk scarf, applies gloss from cute little Japanese fox-shaped lip gloss*
Profile Image for Melina Souza.
357 reviews1,861 followers
March 23, 2021
Estava muito empolgada com esse livro e estava feliz por finalmente pegar ele pra ler, mas fiquei muito incomodada com o fato do autor pegar uma mulher do mundo real que fez um trabalho lindo e transformar ela em uma vilã.

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,633 followers
May 29, 2020
Fabulous! I just listened to Christian read it via Instagram Live, and it was such a soothing way to spend several afternoons! He's an excellent reader (and he's going to read the audiobook), and I hadn't forgotten how amazing the book was, but I had forgotten a lot of the little details. Like how stunning the art is, and how horrible Mr. Scratch really is. Such a great book, I'm so pleased it got a Newbery honor, because I need more people to read it!
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews146 followers
May 23, 2022
Not all Newbery winners have the same feel. The awards committee has often favored historical fiction and social progress narratives, but Christian McKay Heidicker's Scary Stories for Young Foxes, a 2020 Newbery Honor recipient, breaks from the norm. The book begins with seven fox kits anxious for a break from the tedium of their mother's den. After she mentions the "old storyteller" at Bog Cavern, the kits sneak off under cover of night to learn for themselves if the storyteller's tales are as terrifying as their mother warns. It's a spooky night in the Antler Wood, but none of the nervous kits turn back before reaching Bog Cavern, where the skeletal storyteller warns that these scary tales may not be pleasant. Each determined not to be shamed by their siblings for opting out and going home, the kits settle in for a night of intrigue and creepy atmosphere as the storyteller commences to speak.

Roa, Mia, Marley, Bizy, and Alfie are five fox kit siblings who live in the Eavey Wood. Miss Vix is their teacher, imparting lessons they need for their Golden-Eyed Day, which marks a fox's transition to adolescence. Miss Vix is cunning but kind, though today the kits can't seem to find her. Wait, there she is hiding in a hawthorn bush...that is her, isn't it? Roa, who loves Miss Vix more than the others do, pokes his way inside the bush to see why she isn't responding, and is greeted by a nasty surprise: Miss Vix reeks of the "yellow stench" and has a feral glare in her eyes. A mortal disease has infected her, one transmitted by even the smallest bite, and the wise, courteous teacher is now enslaved to wild aggression. Roa and his siblings flee Miss Vix's murderous intent, but how many will live to see another dawn? What could be worse than a den of kits all dead before their Golden-Eyed Day?

These young foxes aren't the only ones in a toxic situation. Elsewhere we meet Uly, born with three normal paws and one shriveled beyond use. His six sisters jeer at him for his disability, whispering when their mother's back is turned that they wish he were dead and surely he soon will be. In self-satisfied tones they speak of a demon-like presence named Mr. Scratch who will one day exact retribution against Uly for the resources he drains from his mother and sisters. Uly wishes he could hunt like a healthy kit, especially in this region where food is scarce and the helpless are first to perish, but his withered forepaw makes everything difficult. He tells himself Mr. Scratch is a myth concocted by his cruel sisters, but deep down he fears the monster will lunge at him from a crack in the earth or behind a loamy tree and kill Uly before he's old enough for the blue in his eyes to disappear. When Mr. Scratch finally shows up, Uly is horrified: he's more sadistic than the young kit imagined. The beast offers Uly's mother a perverse choice: either her son must die, or all his sisters will. Unable to bear the thought that his own mother, the one person who ever showed compassion for Uly, might announce her consent to his death, the lame kit blindly flees to parts unknown. But how can he survive without his mother to hunt food for him?

Traveling alone with her mother, Mia tries not to think about her siblings, whom Miss Vix bit. They're not dead...are they? Her mother avoids talking about it, and Mia has no desire to push the issue. The wildlands they're now entering are full of danger, worst of which is the tall, sticklike creatures who walk on their back legs and are considered smarter than any fox: humans. A human traps Mia in a cage, and she can't bite or claw her way out; the "white sticks" the cage is made of are too durable. The human has a special plan for the animals she captures, a ghastly fate Mia must avoid at any cost, but can a kit outwit a human in her own domain? The necessary sacrifice to be free may be more than Mia can stand to pay. On the road again, deeply troubled by recent incidents, Mia discovers another kit, one with only three functioning paws. The two foxes are wary of each other, but how better to improve their odds than by teaming up against an ugly, vicious world? Uly and Mia embark in search of their mothers, if either is still alive. Every step takes the youngsters closer to a reality they may not wish to know.

"But it's a dangerous thing to start caring for someone else."

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, P. 150

Growing up can be hazardous, but Uly and Mia have each other...for now. Uly must learn to take care of himself if he's to have a normal life. Mating with a vixen someday and having kits seems farfetched, but could it be possible? Mia encourages him that it might. Mr. Scratch still lurks out there, an enemy who would take pleasure in torturing Uly to death, and defeating him may be the ultimate test Uly needs to pass. How will he raise emotionally healthy kits if he can't move beyond his own childhood trauma? Mia still seeks her mother, desperate to believe she's alive. Mia isn't grown yet; she needs more loving care and wisdom from her mother, but what if that isn't possible? Perils and tragedy come at the two growing foxes from every angle, but their experiences have equipped them to survive. Can Uly and Mia fashion meaningful lives even after everything that has gone against them?

Life isn't rosy and sweet, guaranteed to end well. It's pockmarked by pain, and survival is a craps shoot. The storyteller, back in the Antler Wood, understands this. "All scary stories have two sides...Like the bright and dark of the moon. If you're brave enough to listen and wise enough to stay to the end, the stories can shine a light on the good in the world. They can guide your muzzles. They can help you survive...But...if you don't listen closely...if you turn tail from the horror and don't stay till the end, then the darkness of the story can swallow all hope. It can frighten you so deeply you'll never want to leave your den again. You'll waste away the days with your mother, forever smelling like her milk." It's tempting to eschew stories that remind us of our own shortcomings and past hurt, while gravitating toward cheerful ones as analgesic for our heart wounds. There's a role for story to play in numbing pain, but if we never venture into the darkness we'll never comprehend the complexities of our world, love and contentment mixed with rejection and grief. The youngest kit listening to the storyteller faces this dilemma near the end of the book. Should she listen to the final tale, or not? The narrative is at a somewhat happy juncture, so why risk it coming apart? These considerations do battle in her mind. "The last part of the story might not end well. The darkness might crawl in through her ears and never leave." If you refuse to make your heart vulnerable to potential tragedy, then any chance for a happy ending also vanishes. What is life if not lived to capacity, danger and all? Taking vicarious risks through story is how we train to do the same in real life, so when our moment of truth arrives, we know what needs to be done. May we all have courage to sit and listen to the storyteller's conclusion, whatever it brings.

These themes bleed into Uly and Mia's story as their circle of loved ones expands. Losing your own life is one thing, but what if you have to watch a parent die, or a mate? What about seeing a gentle young kit bleed his last, the light fading from his scared blue eyes? Turmoil and violence is everywhere, and Mia isn't sure she has the heart to start a den. "It's just...families can up and die. Just like that. Or they can leave you and never come back." Loving someone is a harrowing chance to take, but how can you be fulfilled if you abstain from taking it? This is one of many hard lessons for Uly and Mia, who have to grow up quickly without their mothers' guidance. Only in the shadow of profound mourning will Mia come to peace with the fact that life is comprised of tragedy and joy in roughly equal shares. "Sometimes," Mia observes, "there's a fire in the fields. A lot of foxes will breathe the smoke." Some of them will die. "But from the ashes, the trees will grow back greener, better than before. And there will be lots of good things to eat. And even though the fire was scary, and even though it took some foxes away...the other foxes will remember. They'll remember the foxes who died. They'll remember the smell of the smoke. And they'll tell all their friends and siblings and kits about it so that it never has to happen again. And all the foxes will live happily ever after...Or as happy as they can be, at least." Regrowth cannot begin without the awful blaze preceding it. This is life, a seesaw of regrets and blessings you ride until the day you die. You'll wonder at times if the bad is worth the good, but experiencing both is the only way to be fully alive. Hold tightly to the rare, fleeting gift while it's yours, before it slips through your fingers forever. With a little luck and a lot of love, by the end of your story you'll know it was worth every crisis you endured.

Unusual a junior novel as Scary Stories for Young Foxes is, it's clearly Newbery caliber. Christian McKay Heidicker writes in beauty and power, compressing life's messy elements into just over three hundred pages. Junyi Wu's illustrations are a wondrous mixture of darkness and light, bleakness and hope, adding dramatic dimension to the narrative. Some of the characterizations could be more complete, a few storylines seem to be left dangling, and I'm not totally sold on the revelation about the storyteller at the end, but these aren't major issues, and I think I'd rate Scary Stories for Young Foxes the full three stars. Christian McKay Heidicker's philosophy of story harks back to some of the masters of juvenile literature—Louisa May Alcott, Richard Adams, Katherine Paterson, Avi, Brian Jacques—and this book is a fresh perspective on core values of the human spirit. I promise to treasure it always.
Profile Image for Jane.
2,681 reviews52 followers
February 26, 2020
How many ways can I hate this book?
1. Beatrix Potter as an evil taxidermist who kills animals when she's finished drawing them? WTF, Dude! Potter did more singlehandedly for animal and land conservation than anyone of her era. I know, when she was a student she once boiled the meat off a dead rabbit (she did not kill it) so she could study its anatomy, but what's the point of turning her into Hansel and Gretel's Witch? I hope The Beatrix Potter Society sends you a stiff letter of reproof and turns down your membership application.
2. If Beatrix Potter is the locator of the story's time frame, how is it that the little foxes all speak in fluent Disney Princess slang? Jarring to my ears, and nowhere near as witty as the work of Daniel Handler or Diana Wynne-Jones.
3. When I was a kid, we loved spooky stories, the grosser the better, but all the maiming and horrible deaths and diseases here felt sadistic to me. The too-neatly tied happy-ever-after didn't mesh with all the menace and horror - it read as a perfunctory nod to the sensibilities of parents and librarians.
4. If anyone makes this into a movie, I'm boycotting it.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,382 reviews73 followers
October 17, 2019
These foxes are enchanting and in constant peril. Your heart will break over and over again and you will never feel good about reading Peter Rabbit again.

I hear it all the time from grown-ups, "I just don't like talking animal books." We get it, you're grown, and you don't want to be seen crying over dead spiders, or artistic apes, or mouse knights. So, don't pay attention to this review.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,362 reviews531 followers
September 20, 2020
This is not a book I found interesting until I saw it was a Newbery Honor recipient. So, I checked it out and kept putting off reading it. . . Finally took it to my library to read on my breaks and finally finished. The first parts were just icky and creepy. Then Beatrix Potter shows up. Interesting, but this was no the Miss Potter I remember from the movie of the same name. Grrrrr. As we continue to spend time with Uly and Mia they really began to grow on me and I was rooting for them. The ending is well done. I do think this is not a book I would recommend to every kid like I would a book like "New Kid."

Profile Image for Jenn Mattson.
1,051 reviews31 followers
May 13, 2020
Beautifully, BEAUTIFULLY written and described, fantastically imaginative, and amazingly atmospheric- a little like Watership Down and Rabbit Hill meets Stephen King, but tamer with the creepies and grossnesses. It's a bit sad, but real. (Oh, and, boy, does Beatrix Potter get thrown under the bus. Geez. Not sure how I feel about that!)
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,116 reviews186 followers
July 22, 2019
Eager for scary stories, six fox kits sneak away from their den in the Antler Wood and make their way to Bog Cavern, where the old storyteller regales them with the tale of two young foxes, born of different families, whose youthful misfortunes bring them together. When all of Mia's siblings, as well as her tutor Miss Vix are stricken by the "yellow disease," she and her mother set off into exile, only to become separated when they run afoul of an unexpected human enemy, in the form of . Uly, in the meantime, is persecuted by his sisters (and unbeknownst to him at first, his father) for having an atrophied leg, and must eventually flee his own family, when it becomes apparent that his life is in danger. Not yet fully grown, and unprepared for life in the wild, the two kits meet up and go on to encounter many more dangers, all related by the storyteller to the kits in Antler Wood. As each episode is completed, another kit sneaks off home, leading to the question: will any of the listeners stick it out to the end? More importantly, what purpose do these scary stories serve...?

Due out for publication next month (August, 2019), Scary Stories for Young Foxes is animal fiction at its best, and I'm grateful to the work colleague who set the ARC of it aside for me, knowing my fondness for fox stories. Christian McKay Heidicker really captures the vulpine perspective in his writing here, and I appreciated the way in which monstrous things, things that might at first glance appear fantastical to the reader, are shown to be natural - for instance, - as this highlights how differently things must look to our foxy friends. I wasn't really sure what to expect, going in - horror? dark fantasy? - but what I found was fairly realistic animal fiction, with an emphasis on the hardships and dangers to be found in the wild. I didn't find the stories particularly scary, but clearly the young foxes did, and I would imagine young children might as well. Heidicker writes well, with both humor and pathos, and I was completely invested in these characters, hoping throughout that they would find a (relatively) happy ending. The artwork from Junyi Wu, although not final in this ARC edition, is lovely, and added to my enjoyment, as did the choice to use black paper for the scenes depicting the storyteller and listening foxes, and white paper for the eight inset tales. The tying together of those two strands - storyteller and stories - at the end proved most satisfying. Recommended to fox lovers young and old, as well as to any reader who enjoys good animal fiction.
Profile Image for Hannah Garrett.
94 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2018
I can’t describe just how much I love this book. It reads to you like you’re one of the foxes, listening to the sage storyteller. You travel through tall grass, wind between trees in the forest, smell purple, jump over large barriers, and feel everything Mia and Uly feel. Each story has a distinctness, and also carries a thread from beginning to end. I haven’t cried at the end of a book as much as I did with this one. Tears of joy and sorrow. But mostly feeling like I immediately missed reading about my friends.
Profile Image for Dan Poblocki.
Author 28 books567 followers
February 28, 2020
So, this was astonishingly good. Really difficult to read if, like me, you have trouble watching nature shows on TV in which animals are hunted and killed by each other. But hey, that's what makes these "stories" so scary...
Profile Image for Vikki VanSickle.
Author 12 books200 followers
September 8, 2019
Unique and satisfyingly creepy, this middle grade novel has shades of PAX, but in the hands of Guillermo del Toro. Seven short stories are told to a group of kits by a mysterious storyteller, ultimately linked in a greater narrative that reveals itself slowly. The stories are atmospheric, dark, and often violent. The world of the foxes is dangerous and made rich with Heidicker's fox lexicon ("the yellow" for rabies, humans wear "extra skins" instead of clothes, etc). Maybe not for the faintest of hearts, but a delicious readaloud for kids who can handle something darker. The scariest middle grade novel I've read since The Dollhouse Murders. Bonus cameo by Beatrix Potter, but likely not the BP you would expect.
Profile Image for Jiny S.
307 reviews24 followers
March 20, 2021
This is a wonderful story about the survival of two young foxes, about family, friendship, tragedy, and strength. The title could be misleading because it made me expect horror. But instead, there's thriller and suspense.

Things don't have to be shapeless or unfamiliar to be evil. The scariest parts of this story could very well happen in real-life. It is refreshing to encounter stories that do not portray caregivers as the stereotypical perfect, selfless saints that parents are too often portraying in children's materials.

This is a fantastic story for children and can be enjoyed by adults alike. It has a riveting plot and profound characters that can truly teach you about human nature.
Profile Image for Jordan Henrichs.
285 reviews7 followers
December 21, 2019
Has the structure of A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and the prose of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. More unforgiving and violent than I was expecting, but hopeful and engrossing at the same time. Such a unique book, but one I liked a lot!
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews313 followers
April 26, 2020
Wow. That was.. definitely something. I loved some things about it and I viscerally disliked other things about it. I bet this was a fascinating discussion around the Newbery table!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
147 reviews6 followers
January 2, 2019
Brilliantly written. I started reading and only stopped when I went to get a hoodie and blanket to keep from shivering- the scary story kind of shivering- where you curl up under a blanket and peek out because you *have* to know what happens next. For some reason, I expected this book to be... well... NOT scary. I had to keep reminding myself that I am not a young fox, and badgers and steel traps and humans are not *that* scary. And yet, these young foxes' fight for survival feels incredibly real.

The book is divided into eight sections, each with its own short chapters. It is told from the point of view both of a young fox listening to a wise older fox share scary bedtime stories, and from the view of the young foxes in the older fox's stories. As the stories weave together, threats increase. A word to the wise- these stories are not for children who are faint of heart. Fearless children (and grown ups) who love shivery tales will eat this up and ask for more.

Semi spoiler alert, to help parents and teachers decide if this is right for your young kits: Foxes both young and old die, family members are sometimes cruel and sometimes kind (as they are in the wild and in "civilization.") Some foxes survive, but many do not. The ending is a little sad, but mostly happy. Heidicker opens the door for discussion on a variety of topics including wildland conservation, abuse, hunting, survival of the fittest, and the power of storytelling to transmit understanding from one generation to the next.

In the end, Heidicker brings all the story's threads together in an unexpected way, leaving readers with a greater respect for nature and a cozy feeling of wanting to hug those you love and thank your lucky stars you were not born a young fox!
Profile Image for Carolyn.
1,404 reviews77 followers
February 18, 2020
Just the right amount of scary for kids who like scary things. Not too predictable. All kinds of danger met these fox friends. Rabies (depicted quite horrifyingly), hunters and taxidermists, a sadistic father of a disabled fox, and swamp monsters. Intermingled are short passages of little foxes being told these scary stories by a storyteller and as the novel progresses, individual kits decide they've had enough scares and decide to return home to mama. It makes it okay and normal for kids to self-censor if they're getting too scared, just like the fox kids. Still had a happy ending and lots of good lessons throughout.
March 13, 2019
I got my hands on an Advance Reader's Edition, and wow.

I'm not going to say much, out of fear of spoiling something, so I'll leave it at this:

Edge of the seat thriller.
Incredible use of language that puts me 100% into the minds of these poor fox kits.
Stayed with me long after the read.
A new addition to my list of all-time favorite books.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,908 reviews35 followers
July 22, 2020
Nature can be so cruel in this animal story for young readers looking for a scary book.
Profile Image for Tasha Robinson.
564 reviews125 followers
January 10, 2021
I don't know that I'd give this book to a child, or read it to a child, or condone a child reading it. But it's exactly the kind of book I would have treasured as a child, because it's dark and violent and spooky and full of fear and sickness and death, all the stuff children's books normally avoid. This is a novel told in installments that somewhat mimic short stories, but it's really a single story with a frame story that it frequently returns to, as the main story is told to a litter of young foxes, by a storyteller with an agenda that gradually becomes clear. And those stories really are the equivalent of ghost stories for foxes, with rabies, sinister predators, vicious adult foxes, and other terrible threats in the villain role. Also there's an evil Beatrix Potter for some reason — and while a young fox's encounter with her initially seems like the human/rabbit encounter toward the end of Watership Down, with the animal just not in a position to understand human benevolence, it gets real dark and weird real quick. Even as a grown-ass adult, I was shocked at how grim this book gets. A certain kind of kid — the ones that value subversive books and scary ones — will love this.
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