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The Wolves in the Walls
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Young Lucy thinks that she hears wolves rustling inside the walls of her family's house. Her parents and brother disregard her concerns, telling her respectively that she must be hearing mice, rats, or bats. Each family member repeats an old saying to her, as well: "If the wolves come out of the walls, then it's all over." She has no idea what they are talking about. When it turns out that Lucy is correct and wolves do come out of the walls, the family must evacuate the house and live in the garden. The wolves eat their food, wear their clothes, and play with their belongings. Against her family's wishes, Lucy bravely returns to the house (hiding herself in the walls just as the wolves had) to retrieve her special stuffed pig. She then convinces her family that they must take back the house from the wolves. Again hiding in the walls, the four family members spring out on the unsuspecting wolves who howl: "The people have come out of the walls! And when the people come out of the walls...it's all over!"
The family moves back into their house, but at the end of the story Lucy is telling her toy pig that she hears elephants in the walls. The illustration on the last page shows that, again, she is correct.
Is it any good?
The atmosphere in this unsettling story is dark and eerie. There is an uncomfortable emotional disconnectedness between the family members and, while the collage artwork is certainly strikingly unusual and impressive, many of the images are scary. The characters have a weirdly vacant look. Inhabiting a world that is shadowy and mysterious looking, their actions and conversations are similarly disjointed and confusing. When the wolves appear in the story, they are drawn in a manic, cartoon style different from the human characters, but in some ways more frightening.
The narrative underpinnings of the story are sound and the story line moves in a neat circle. Lucy, the main character, can see and hear clearly what the rest of the family ignores, and she feels a terrible sense of isolation as a result. Perhaps young children in a similar situation would identify with her, but the action and images in the book are so distressing that there can be little understanding or comfort to be gained from this story. That the situation repeats in the end is clever, but, again, such a pessimistic conclusion for a children's picture book (Grimm's fairy tales notwithstanding) is worrying.