Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review - Wolf Story

Wolf Story
by William McCleery
illustrated by Warren Chappell
Date: 1947
Publisher: NYR Children's Collection
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 88
Format: e-book
Source: library

This irresistible book is about: a father; his five-year-old son, Michael (intelligent, crafty, addicted to stories); Michael’s best friend Stefan (stalwart listener, equally addicted to stories); and, well—what else?—a story.

Oh, and a wolf. It is as Michael always demands: a Wolf Story, which begins one night at bedtime and spins wildly on through subsequent bedtimes and Sunday outings to the beach and park in a succession of ever more trickily tantalizing episodes. Waldo the wolf is sneaking up on Rainbow the hen, when Jimmy Tractorwheel, the son of the local farmer, comes along. After that, there’s no knowing what will happen next, as while stalled in traffic jams or nodding off at night, the boys chime in and the story races on and Waldo finds, if not necessarily dinner, his just desserts.

First published in 1947 and wonderfully illustrated by Warren Chappell, William McCleery’s Wolf Story is a delicious treat for fathers and sons and daughters and mothers alike.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Given that it's from 1947, I expected it to be a lot more dated. But the father's interactions with his son (and his son's friend) seem downright modern, and there's not a lot in the book, technology-wise, that would have kids scratching their heads. (In fact, at one point when they ran into car trouble, some passerby called a nearby garage... and the way it was worded, he very well could've used a cell phone!)

The book is actually a story within a story. Michael's father tells him (and, eventually, his friend Stefan, too) a bedtime story that turns into a collaborative effort. The children make plenty of suggestions, usually with the aim of stretching the story out a little more. The basic premise of the bedtime story is that a wolf--named Waldo--steals a rainbow-coloured hen--named, of course, Rainbow. The wolf's not very bright, and he finds himself outsmarted by both a chicken and a five-year-old boy.

Overall, this is a surprisingly enjoyable little story from the 1940s. The exasperation of the father is amusing, as are the son's attempts to drag out the story a little more. I think most people who love stories will be able to relate to not wanting a good one to end... even if that means changing the trajectory of the plot and letting the villain live to steal chickens another day.

Quotable moment:

"Could he climb over the fence?" said the boy.
"You know a wolf couldn't climb a fence," said the man.
"But this is only a story," said the boy. "You can make anything happen in a story."

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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