Picture Book Review: Wolfie, an Unlikely Hero

Wolfie: An Unlikely Hero, Deborah Abela (author), Connah Brecon (illus.), Random House Australia, 2017

Synopsis: I, The Wolf, am sick of being the bad guy. I’m taking over this book.

Dear Readers,

Fairytales are nonsense. They’re full of wolves pestering pigs and picking on sweet little girls in red hoods. But I would never do those things. I knit! I bake blueberry pie!

You know what I really want to do? I WANT TO RESCUE A PRINCESS!

And if I can’t? I QUIT!

Yours sincerely,
Wolfie

Wolfie may want to be a hero, but he’s about to discover that arguing with this book’s narrator is not the best way to improve his image…

A fun page-turner that kids will likely want to hear again and again, Wolfie: An Unlikely Hero is a picture book that turns the usual fairytale stereotypes about wolves on their head. In the story, which breaks the fourth wall, Wolfie is sick of having a bad reputation and appeals to the narrator to write a story about a nice, loyal, brave, heroic wolf, instead of one that just wants to eat everything in sight.

Interspersing third-person narration with the first-person appeals and exasperated comments from Wolfie, author Deborah Abela cleverly teaches children about story formats and processes while entertaining them at the same time. She also examines, with a light touch, the idea of stereotypes and not judging others by their appearance or reputation. The introduction of a butt-kicking princess (who does not take kindly to Wolfie’s attempts at rescue) and a loving dragon provide further riff on the fairytale concept and add some fun twists to the story to boot.

Illustrator Connah Brecon uses colourful, expressive, and rather cartoonish pictures to bring the story to life even more. The drawings are full of movement, and they make many visual jokes and references to the parody of fairytales happening in the text. For example, on the front cover of the book we see Wolfie holding a ‘Big Book of Fairy Tales’, while inside various spreads allude to the 3 Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. The back-cover blurb, illustrated as a letter Wolfie is holding up for readers (as shown above in the synopsis), also clearly preps readers for a book that is not like other fairytales.

Throughout the book, Brecon’s illustrations depict characters with very expressive faces, which conveys even more feeling, warmth and humour; plus the reader is treated to various perspectives as the story progresses, from close ups and ‘behind the lens’-style gazes, to distant views and more. This keeps things interesting and can further teach children about story layouts and other literary devices. The book could certainly make a great text for teachers to use in the classroom.

Readers who know and love traditional tales and fairytales will particularly enjoy this humorous picture book, but even those who have not been exposed to them yet will likely enjoy the comedic story and illustrations. It is highly recommended for children aged around four or five years and up.

Please note: a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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