Age group: 3-7
Fox is bored and hungry, but he’s tired of eating big fat toads. So he gets a new cookbook, and finds that all the recipes call for “small toads, young and tender.” Accordingly, he goes to the pond and captures a whole sackful of baby toads. While he’s choosing a recipe, their panicked mother arrives and begs Fox not to cook her children. After refusing to eat her instead (“too old and stringy”), Fox is persuaded to try Mamma Toad’s secret recipe: toad-in-the-hole.
Quick-thinking Mamma Toad walks Fox through the recipe (which is included at the end of the book). Fox is about to add the egg when he realizes this dish contains no toads at all. But it tastes wonderful, and he is convinced to give up his former dietary mainstay in favour of the new delicacy. He cooks one for each toadlet and they all sit down to eat together.
This is a gentle story that includes only a brief threat of violence before the problem of Fox’s hunger is solved in a humorous way. Mamma Toad’s intervention is melodramatic, and her adoption of a classic trickster strategy outfoxes the Fox, one of literature’s most common trickster figures.
But the real humour lies in Colin Jack’s illustrations: bright and cartoon-like, they capture the riotous energy of the toadlets who fight, crawl into a honey-pot, play hide-and-seek, and parachute off the counter while Mamma Toad negotiates to save their lives. Although the problem in this story is solved a little too easily, the path to the solution involves plenty of fun.