Wolf Boy is a classic tale of cat and mouse. As the story begins, we are introduced to a night-time scene with a black, double-page spread as a large, yellow moon instantly catches the reader’s eye. Enter ‘Wolfboy’ prowling the night, searching in vain for his prey – rabbits. Wolfboy gets increasingly frustrated as he continues to seek these elusive rabbits, leading the reader to an action-filled double-page spread where he acts out his anger in series of frustrated poses – as if we are looking at photographic snapshots of a tantrum in progress.
‘I need food!’ Wolfboy roars at the reader, drawing us in. It is at this point that the perspective of the story changes – the rabbits become the main focal point of the illustration, almost as if Wolfboy himself has finally zoomed in on their whereabouts.
The ending of this familiar tale is not one that the reader would suspect. What will happen when Wolfboy finally finds these rabbits? What will be their fate? The surprising ending offered by the author begs the reader to re-read, hunting for clues along the way that tell of this unexpected turn of events.
One of the unique qualities of this lively picture book is Harkness’ construction of the images – crafting clay sculptures of each scene, photographing these creations outdoors and then digitally re-painting the images for the finished product. The striking black background we are introduced to at the outset is mirrored throughout the work, giving the reader a growing sense of foreboding, adding to the suspense of this ‘cat and mouse’ tale – punctuated with the varying yellow, blue and brown tones used to represent the characters.
Wolf Boy is a perfect choice for younger readers. The simple, yet engaging story, invites us in – a perfect choice for reading aloud. The detail provided within the images themselves opens up a world of opportunity for exploration and discussion. Personally, the story leaves me with one question… Who, in this story, was actually the ‘cat’ and who was the ‘mouse’? – An interesting idea to explore with your readers at home or in school.
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