Monday, March 26, 2012

Wolf Won't Bite!

Horn Book (March/April, 2012)

Creating a circus sideshow with the wolf as its unwilling star, three pigs enjoy taunting a captured wild wolf. The pigs pull up to the circus with the wolf inside a decorated rolling cage, his head and tail protruding from each end, and seem determined to humiliate him at every opportunity. They stand him on a stool, tie an oversized, ridiculous bow around his neck, ride him like a horse, make him jump through hoops, throw knives at him, shoot him through the air like a cannonball, even saw him in two, magician style. No matter what these vindictive pigs do, "Wolf won't bite!" is the joyous refrain of the porcine tormentors. The pigs' bravado and the wolf's compliance seem to have no bounds until the final taunting is just too much for the wolf. Gravett's impeccable pacing, sly visual clues, and clever use of white space elevate this universal story of gloating gone wrong. What appear first to be circus poster fonts turn out to be carefully drawn individual typefaces for each character. The wolf has exactly one word in the book (the last word, of course), and his typeface is deliciously hairy. The wolf's expression, which reflects each fresh indignity, changes ever so slightly at the end to warn the reader that the wolf has Had Enough. The color palette -- heavy on the red and gray -- is reminiscent of that of Falconer's Olivia, and it is quite possible that these three pigs would enjoy her friendship very much. robin l. smith

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