A decadent fox sets her hungry sights on an innocent egg in this stylish and deliciously funny tale by Alex T Smith

This isn’t just a picture book. Ho no. It’s a cleverly conceived cinematic production, exuding all the glamour and panache of early film. It’s there in the troupe of can-can dancing chickens who line up leggily on the flyleaf. It’s there on the title page which introduces the ‘actors’ – established starlet Vivien Vixen as Foxy DuBois and newcomer Edward L’Oeuf as Egg. It’s there in the portentous opening line, appropriated from a gruff Bogart in Casablanca: “Of all the suspicious looking houses in all the deserted woods in all the world, he had to roll up to hers…”

Poor Egg. Quivering on the doorstep of Foxy’s foreboding abode while the snow swirls about him, he’s the perfect picture of cinematic vulnerability.

Smith makes masterful use of detail to ramp up the drama –  every page teems with delightful visual cues and clues for readers – both young and old(er) – to relish

There’s the portrait that looms over Foxy’s hall of a vixen brandishing a spoon, one foot poised victoriously atop a large egg. There are paintings of fat, feathery Bantam hens, eggs of different hues, a boiled egg with its end ominously chopped off… “You have some interesting paintings,” comments Egg, all innocence.  But Foxy isn’t listening, she’s too busy looking up some egg recipes in the kitchen. Eek!

And how the tension mounts! Dinner is a sickening banquet of cream cakes and other sweetmeats – contrived by Foxy to feed up Egg (à la the witch in Hansel and Gretel). Then there are those parlour games, introduced ever-so-playfully, but with the sneaky ulterior motive of ensuring her prospective breakfast is the fittest, tastiest morsel. As Egg slumbers sweetly in his bobbled nightcap, Foxy dreams vividly of diving snout-first into the ginormous, golden yolk that fills her hapless little guest’s shell.

But as this drama moves towards its denouement, there’s a delectable twist. Overnight Egg has indeed grown. Yet as his shell cracks, it’s Foxy who is left shell-shocked in a frantic finale. Children will savour the downfall of this vulpine villainess, and be delighted to discover what lurks beneath Egg’s speckled shell… A cracking read, indeed.

FUN FACT Eggs are simply stupendous! Packed with protein, amino acids and Vitamin D, they’re the perfect fare for a growing child, and are even said to be good for the eyes. So what’ll it be – boiled, scrambled, poached or sunnyside up?