Friday, September 11, 2009

The Big Bad Wolf and Me

Written and illustrated by Delphine Perret

Sterling Publishing, 2006

$9.95, ages 4-8

A boy stumbles upon a big bad wolf who's lost his confidence and invites him to hole up in his closet until he's big and scary again in this wry, wonderful book by French author Perret.

When the boy finds the wolf moping on the sidewalk, he sizes him up with the bluntness of a child who hasn't yet learned how to filter what he says. First he assumes the wolf is a talking dog, clearly an affront to the wolf's storybook image.The wolf haughtily corrects, "I am the Big Bad Wolf!" but then feebly adds, "You know, the really scary one?" The boy responds by telling the wolf that he doesn't look scary or big and wonders if the wolf could just be sick.

The wolf, however, is only ailing from self-doubt. He tells the boy that no one believes in him anymore or thinks he's scary. "I'm done for," he adds dismally. So the boy suggests the wolf stop looking so sad and invites him home for chocolate chip cookies and to live in his bedroom closet.

But it isn't easy keeping the wolf a secret from Mom or getting the wolf to agree with the boy. (At one point the boy decides to rename the wolf Zorro because if he had a dog, he'd definitely name him Zorro but the wolf insists on being called by his real name Bernard; the boy tries to force the issue by withholding cookies from his lunch, but Bernard holds his ground.)

In time, the boy teaches the wolf everything he knows about being scary. He roars as loud as he can and makes a scary faces with a flashlight. But each time the boy acts scary, the wolf cowers under a pillow. So the boy tells the wolf to make five scary faces every day and gives him pep talks (for example, when the wolf fails to eat the boy's sister, the boy encourages him to go for it again).

Slowly, the wolf starts to feel more like his frightening self. He practices growling in the mirror and even tries to startle a girl outside his window, though she only sticks out her tongue. Eventually the wolf gets so good at being fierce that he chases the boy all the way to school and terrifies everyone on the school's front lawn. But will the boy ever stop calling him Zorro?

Told through whimsical line drawings and short dialogue, this is one of those books you protect a little more than others because you know your child will want to share it with their child someday.

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