The Wolves in the Walls Book Poster Image

The Wolves in the Walls



May be too intense for the youngest kids.

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness

Scary images and dark story make this too intense for younger kids.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the collage artwork and design of the book are excellent, but many of the images are intended to be scary. The story has a dark sophistication that may appeal to adults, but is too intense for the youngest kids.

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'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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about belief, trust, and communication. How does Lucy feel when her family doesn't believe her about the wolves? Parents can also discuss the importance of keeping an open mind and being receptive to new ideas.

Book details

Author:Neil Gaiman
Illustrator:Dave McKean
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:December 30, 2003
Number of pages:56
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7

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Parent of a 1 and 6 year old Written byjandrewworld June 18, 2010

Who wouldn't love this book?

Before I met my wife, I was in Boston in 1999, and Neil Gaiman read the audience, a room full of adults, this story. Now that I am a parent, my daughters love the story because it is *SO* much fun to read. It has a brave little girl (Which is rare, no princesses) silly sounds and a plot so strange, that your child would never be scared of the wolves coming out of the walls. The art is fabulous, as it breaks pre-held conceptions of children's book art and graphic design.
What other families should know
Great role models
Adult Written bygaleclark February 23, 2012

Too scary and violent, don't waste your money

This book is scary and too violent for young children. The "jam" the wolves are eating looks like blood, and I'm sure the author intended it to be that way.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old December 21, 2010

Bad..makes wolves look evil..

NO makes wolves look evil which they are very very nice the drawings like the eyes creep me out though
What other families should know
Too much violence


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