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sunday morning review: wolves in the walls

Wolves in the Walls: Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean

Lucy heard noises. The noises were coming from inside the walls. They were hustling noises and bustling noises. They were crinkling noises and crackling noises. They were sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises.

Wolves is simple story, really. Lucy hears noises in the walls of her house and assumes the obvious; there are wolves in the walls. Her parents and brother don't believe her, or don't want to believe her, because everyone knows that when the wolves come out of all the walls, it's all over. Of course, the wolves do come out and mayhem ensues.

They wear the family's clothing, eat the mother's homemade jam and make a general mess of things. Lucy and her family - who have been sleeping outside - must use their wit (truthfully, Lucy's wit) to get the wolves to leave the house so they can go back in.

Adults will probably see the payoff coming before it get's there, but children will most likely be surprised, if not delighted, when the plot twist takes shape. The last page, however, does hold a little joke for grown-ups and children alike, and one can imagine Gaiman and McKean winking at us as we get the unwritten joke.

Wolves in the Walls is the duo's second children's picture book (the first is The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish) and, once again, Gaiman and McKean prove to be a formidable team; there has never been a more perfect pairing of words and pictures.

The words are sparser in this second effort, but McKean's illustrations make the words seem larger and deeper; they embellish the story rather than just presenting it. While Gaiman tells the story in a poetic, sing-song form at times, McKean's masterful mixed bag of art provides the music that make the words come alive.

Wolves is sophisticated enough for adults, but not so sophisticated that you won't find yourself making all the appropriate sound effects and silly voices while you read it out loud to a slightly scared (and then relieved) audience of kids. The perfect scary book for children would be one in which their fright is replaced with a smile towards the end so no nightmares ensue; and Wolves pulls that off perfectly.

Further reading:
Interview with Gaiman where he discusses how the story of Wolves in the Walls came to be.
My review of Coraline, Gaiman's children's novel.
The Art of Dave McKean.
Neil Gaiman


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in a non-related comment

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We bought The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish just last week and it's a big hit with both kiddos. So this Wolves book...too scary for a 3 1/2 year old?