August 2006

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

By Emily Gravett
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Wolves starts out tamely, as a floppy-eared rabbit goes to the library to check out a red book titled Wolves. Look closely, however, and you'll notice that Rabbit's red book looks exactly like the book you're reading. Pay careful attention, because this is one of the most clever picture books that has come along in a long time. This book-within-a-book is one that kids will enjoy returning to, and pondering. As Rabbit starts to read his book, he also learns a few facts about wolves. For instance, he reads that Gray wolves live in packs of between two and ten animals. We see a pack of seven wolves jumping out of a box with their teeth bared.

As the wolves in the book try to stalk Rabbit, he reads on obliviously. Consider, for example, the clump of trees shown as Rabbit reads about wolves living in forests. British author-illustrator Emily Gravett has drawn the tree trunks and leaves in the shape of a wolf and a rather fierce one, at that. Rabbit is so engrossed in his book that he doesn't notice that he is getting closer and closer to the wolf. He climbs up a tail of bushy hair, wades through thick fur on his back, and finally ends up on the tip of the wolf's nose, as the wolf waits, licks his lips and holds a knife and fork ready for a rabbit feast. Finally, Rabbit reads that wolves also enjoy [eating] smaller mammals, like beavers, voles and . . . This stunning sentence suddenly jolts Rabbit into awareness, and he realizes he is about to be eaten. The close-up of the wolf's gleaming eyes and Rabbit's wide-eyed look of realization is hilarious.

The next telltale spread simply features the red cover of the book, which has obviously been ripped to shreds during the wolf's feeding frenzy.

Gravett's animals are stately, yet very funny, a combination not often seen in children's literature. A concluding page points out that no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book, adding: It is a work of fiction. As for the ending, I won't spoil the author's final stroke of comedy.

Alice Cary keeps the wolf from the door in Groton, Massachusetts.

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By Emily Gravett
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781416914914

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