Sunday, August 04, 2013

There's a Wolf at the Door

One to remember from Chad Wells.

Alley, Z. B., & Alley, R. W. (2008). There's a wolf at the door. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

In There’s a Wolf at the Door, ZoĆ« and R.W. Alley tie together five traditional stories and nursery rhymes about a big, bad wolf into one narrative. These stories include “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” and “The Wolf and the Seven Little Goslings.” The wolf is portrayed as a trickster with a good fashion sense who is looking for a meal, whether that be pork, mutton, goose, or human. The book itself is oversized, making it perfect for sharing in a large reading group. Although these folktales and fables traditionally come from sources ranging from ancient Greece to medieval England, they all share the common element of the wolf. Because of the inclusion of other animals with human characteristics and human communication with animals, There’s a Wolf at the Door is a perfect example of a beast tale.

The stories have been altered for a modern audience and to help the narrative flow from one story to another. Whereas, traditionally, the characters in each of these stories are not given names, in this particular telling they are. The only character that remains nameless is the wolf. There have been various aspects of both subtle and explicit humor added to the stories as well. Take for example Rhonda’s, a.k.a. “Little Red Riding Hood,” love of fashion, the fair with carnival rides that the wolf invites Blake the Pig to, and the townsperson who is illustrated carrying a blow dryer when Barry the Shepherd cries wolf. The wolf himself, having being shamed and beaten so many times, also humorously considers a change in diet by the end of the story.

It is also interesting to note that the text points out that many traditional stories have been changed in recent years to take out what is seen by some as excessive violence or frightening aspects. This is seen clearly in There’s a Wolf at the Door. For example, the wolf never actually eats anyone or anything in this particular work. Even the hunter in “Little Red Riding Hood” has been omitted.

The book has obvious benefit for an elementary classroom in that the message or moral of the traditional stories remain basically unchanged and can provide good character education. It could also be a great way to introduce these stories to children or present them in a new way with added modern humor. There’s a Wolf at the Door could also be used in an advanced art class for older students as well; the illustrations are beautifully done in cartoon art and are laid out in a graphic novel/storyboard fashion.

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