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Book reviews from 4—7 years

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By Jackie Morrisartist and illustrator

This month we look at a selection of books about those most ferocious of fairytale fiends… or are they?

Footprints in The Snow cover

Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka (Andersen Press, ISBN 9781842706244)

Wolf is a creative sort, who loves nothing more than a good book. So one winter’s day he sits himself down, cosy by the fire, and reads all the books he has in his wonderful wolf library, that are about, well, wolves of course. But he is dismayed to find that all the wolves he reads about are ‘nasty, scary and greedy.’ So he sets out to write his own story about Mr Nice Wolf, to show that wolves have a softer side…

The reader is taken along through the brightly illustrated pages of Wolf’s story, as his misjudged main character follows the footprints in the snow in order to find a friend. Inevitably, Wolf’s natural instinct gets the better of him and he gets carried away in his own imagination. The duck suddenly starts to look rather tasty. But then a knock on the door leads to a twist in the tale, as there, outside his door, are footprints in the snow…

The Boy Who Cried Wolf cover

The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Tony Ross (Andersen Press, ISBN 9781842708330)

There is absolutely no messing around in this picture book – Harry is a bad boy who gets up to mischief. He doesn’t like bathtime or music lessons and sometimes he just likes to frighten people, so when he cries ‘wolf’ once too often you know he is in trouble. Tony Ross’ wolf takes the job of being a wolf seriously. He is a wolf with manners (who sometimes dresses for dinner) and the boy, who is a scamp and a scoundrel, is shown no mercy.

Tony Ross manages to convey expression and movement with such an economy of style. Children will enjoy the characters of the mice who pick through the remains of the people after the wolf has dined. Sounds gruesome, but is just the sort of humour children love. In this bright book full of energy, mischief and movement, both Harry and the wolf get their just desserts.

Little Red cover

Little Red by Lynn and David Roberts (Pavilion Children’s Books, ISBN 9781843650966)

This book puts a spin on the traditional story of Red Riding Hood right from the start, with its wonderful pictures of Little Red – or Thomas as he is also called. The wolf in Little Red is an altogether more scary, clawed creature than in the other books. The wood is dark and Little Red is small, but he has a secret weapon – ginger beer!

I love the way the story builds, with the inevitable big eyes, big ears and big teeth, right through to the rescue of poor Granny, who, it must be said, does look a little the worse for being eaten. Fantastic illustrations and wonderfully paced writing, this is a book both witty in picture and word.

The Scallywags cover

The Scallywags by David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, ISBN 9780340884065)

In nearly all the books I read the wolves were male, with the exception of The Scallywags, which is my favourite for its mad anarchy. When the Scallywags, a pack of chaos-causing wolves, are spurned by the forest community, they decide that the time has come to learn some manners and start to fit in. Unfortunately, being wolves, they take things a little too far and start telling others what to do. But order (or maybe I should say chaos) is restored in the light of the full moon.

David Melling writes both words and pictures beautifully. I loved, looking for the little ones in the wolf pack to see what they were up to and following all the different characters. This is one for under the bedclothes with a torch, pawing over the detail.

Visit our ‘Giveaways’ page for your chance to win the books featured in this review

Winston the Book Wolf cover

Winston the Book Wolf by Marni McGee and Ian Beck (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, ISBN 9780747580133)

Meet Winston, a rather unusual wolf with a taste for books. This tale is again a twist on the traditional Red Riding Hood theme, but here the wolf eats books, not grandmothers.

The book does so much to promote reading that it is a shame it plays to the stereotypical impression of libraries as places with the ‘musty-dusty smell of books’, even though Winston loves the smell as he breathes it in deeply. But it more than makes up for it in the character of Winston – who so loves books, and learns that ‘words taste even better when you eat them with your eyes’.

Ian Beck never fails to delight and packs in many old friends from the world of stories to spot – children will absolutely devour it!

Wolf's Magnificent Master Plan cover

Wolf’s Magnificent Master Plan by Melanie Williamson (Hodder Children’s Books, ISBN 9780340950593)

This book begins like so many other classic tales – with a herd of sheep and a hungry wolf. But this particular wolf is unable to lunch on lamb due to his toothache, so he comes up with a cunning plan. He’ll get the sheep to help him raise money for a trip to the shop to buy some new gnashers (whatever happened to the dentist?). How cruel and crafty can one wolf be? Fortunately, one lamb has more than wool for brains and doesn’t fall for the trick. Poor Wolf seems destined for a life of soup. Thank goodness the lambs have learned three crucial lessons, including to ‘always look after their teeth’.

Melanie Williamson’s romp of a tale is told in bright colours and patterns. Children will love the sassy little lambs who answer back to this big bad wolf.

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