There's a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales
Retold by Zoe B. Alley; illustrated by R.W. Alley
Roaring Brook Press; $19.95
40 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-1596432758
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
With a twist in the telling that makes these storybook standards stand out, Zoe B. Alley's There's A Wolf At The Door is an irreverent and well-told addition to the picture book shelves. The five tales are threaded together by a common character, naturally, the wolf. The arrangement of the stories is such that you can read the book from cover to cover or pick and choose them one at a time -- either way works equally well. (Although having done it both ways, reading them straight through makes for a more enjoyable read).
The wolf first makes his presence known in "The Three Little Pigs". Foiled in his attempts to have his new little pig friends for lunch (he's thinking pork chops and bacon would be nice), the wolf moves on to a field full of sheep, herded by the boy who cried wolf. When the sheep take matters into their own hands (because those villagers certainly aren't coming back), Mr. Wolf heads off into the woods and meets up with a very stylish and very self-centered little girl in a red riding hood. She's quite happy to make his acquaintance and chat a bit about clothes and fashion until she runs into him again at her grandmother's house, where she sends him packing wearing nothing more than a shag carpet. The wolf finds himself back in the field of sheep (starring in The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing) where he's foiled again and finally tries to one last time to grab some "fast food" in The Wolf and the Seven Little Goslings, where he's finally sent packing for good. Well, at least, until he sees a sign pointing toward Mr. MacGregor's garden...
Zoe B. Alley's storytelling style is fresh and fun. The characters are very real and modern, with strong appeal in their dialogue. The clever arrangement of the stories, tying them all together with the central wolf character adds a whole new dimension to the tried and true tales we've all (including our kids) heard before. She makes them feel new and her retelling will really have kids (and their parents) wondering what happens next.
Illustrator R.W. Alley's work is just as fresh creative in its expression. Each page is filled with sequential art that moves the story along quickly, treating young readers to a visual play by play of the action. The detailed artwork is colorful and engaging, while the characters' expressive faces and body language allow young readers to make no mistake about the characters' true intentions (especially that wolf!).
There's A Wolf At The Door delivers a fresh take on old standards while not going so far off the beaten path that they're unrecognizable. It's a great choice for family reading -- even young readers can sit quietly and enjoy all the action in the illustrations as they look through the book themselves. The larger-than-usual size makes this a good lap book as the kids gather around for a story, one that you'll enjoy as much as they do.
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