The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse Book Poster Image
Quirky and drily witty tale of animals swallowed by wolf.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some new vocabulary: "ruckus," "remedy," "flagon," "beeswax candles," "doom," "wraiths."

Positive Messages

You can make a nice home for yourself in situations that at first seem dire. You can protect your home when it's threatened. Friends help each other. It's fun to cook together. You can find ways to be safe when you're in danger.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The duck and mouse make the best of their situation and figure out how to turn it to their advantage. They make a nice home for themselves. They become friends and cook together. They come up with a creative way to defend their home when it's threatened. The wolf thanks them for saving his life.

Violence & Scariness

Duck and mouse get eaten by wolf but are swallowed whole and survive. Hunter with gun chases wolf and fires a shot but misses and is scared away by duck and mouse.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse is the fourth collaboration of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (Extra Yarn), and with the active imaginations of these two, you can never anticipate what eccentric turns the story will take. Here, they've produced a funny tale about a mouse and duck who take up residence in a wolf's belly, a sort of mash-up of Little Red Riding Hood and "Jonah and the Whale." In places, it has a fairy tale feel, but every page is also infused with dry wit. There's a hunter with a gun who fires a shot, but no one gets hurt. And there's friendship between the mouse and the duck, who even reconcile with the wolf. This story could become a bedtime favorite precisely because it's not the usual fare.

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What's the story?

In THE WOLF, THE DUCK, AND THE MOUSE, a mouse gets swallowed by a wolf, and when he tumbles into the dark belly, he finds a duck who has made a comfy home for himself there. They dine on a delicious meal spread across a cheerful tablecloth. "You'd be surprised what you find inside of a wolf." And the duck says he doesn't miss his old life: "When I was outside, I was afraid every day wolves would swallow me up. In here, there's no worry." Though the wolf feels sick from all the partying inside, all's well until a hunter chases and fires at the wolf. To defend their home, the duck and mouse fly out of the wolf's mouth, scaring the hunter away for good. And when the wolf, grateful, asks how he can repay them? "Well, you can guess what they asked for." The two friends, back in the wolf's belly, party down. "And that's why the wolf howls at the moon."

Is it any good?

Parents looking to mix it up at story time and add some fun, quirky fare need look no further than this book about a resourceful duck and mouse who happily take up residence in a wolf's belly. The premise of The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse has some of the elements of a fairy tale, and author Mac Barnett tinges the language with a classic feel. When the animals scare the hunter off, the text reads, "'Oh woe!' said the hunter. 'Oh death! These woods are full of evil and wraiths!' He fled the forest and never returned." And the end wraps up like a fable: "And that's why the wolf howls at the moon." But the story's shot through with dry humor, as if Barnett's looking at the genre through a wry side-glance. When the wolf feels sick from the ruckus inside, the duck shouts up a remedy: "Eat a hunk of good cheese. And a flagon of wine! And some beeswax candles." Which of course provides the ingredients of that night's feast -- at which the duck toasts, "To the health of the wolf!"

Jon Klassen's textured, mixed-media art has just as much fun with the players, animating them and bringing the detail of their odd world vividly to life. The subtle messages underlying the story -- home is what you make it, friends arrive in the oddest ways, you can use ingenuity to protect yourself -- are all the more powerful delivered in this spirited, imaginative package.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the premise of The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. Do you know the stories "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Jonah and the Whale"? How is this story like a traditional fairy tale? How is it different?

  • Do you have places where you feel unsafe, like the duck does? Where do you go to feel safer?

  • What are the funniest parts of the story to you? In the words? In the art?

Book details

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