Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Reviewer: Sian Gaetano on Emily Gravett

Wolves (2006) & Wolf Won't Bite (2012)
written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
Simon and Schuster for Young Readers

Emily Gravett’s picturebook page-turner, Wolves, immediately draws the reader in by starting the action on the wraparound cover. On the front, we see an inquisitive Rabbit on a blank page gazing up at the bold type of the title. Flip the book over and reviews for Wolves, Gravett’s first book, can be seen: “Every burrow should own this!” says The Daily Carrot while The Rabbit Review states it is “A wonderful introduction for young rabbits to the danger of wolves. Buy this!” The illustrations are done in a mixed media of photographs and black and white and color line drawings that meet in an action-packed collage. To begin the “tail,” Rabbit goes to the library, chooses a book about wolves, and begins reading immediately. As he walks, leaving little Rabbit footprints behind, he learns all kinds of facts about wolves’ packs, habitats, and attributes. With every turn of our page, a wholly invested Rabbit also turns his page and, distracted, does not notice the ever-growing size of his book, nor the wolves’ ability to move outside the margins... Don’t fear if your reader worries about the safety of Rabbit—Gravett has included an alternative ending “for more sensitive readers.” As you read this winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for Illustration, be sure to keep a sharp eye out for little jokes Grabbit—er, Gravett—has included throughout the body of the book and make sure to spend some time with her last double page spread.

Gravett’s 2011 picturebook, Wolf Won’t Bite, presents a startling situation on the wraparound cover—three circus pigs pose happily while holding the end of a leash made out of string wrapped around the neck of a scruffy and defeated looking wolf. The first set of endpapers depicts the pigs, all decked out and toting a brightly painted cage, chasing after the fleeing wolf. As the copyright page and half title page show the pigs plastering up large posters for their show “Wolf Won’t Bite,” it becomes evident to the reader that the pigs must have caught their star. In the series of watercolor and oil based pencil illustrations that follow, the pigs excitedly make the increasingly harassed wolf do embarrassing and annoying stunts. On a page turn that begins with the sad wolf wearing an over-sized red bow, the texts states “I can dress him in a bow…” Flip the page and find the strongman pig standing on the back of the wolf, dressed like a show pony, declaring “I can ride him like a horse but WOLF WON’T BITE!” The tricks get more dangerous, the pigs more confident, and the wolf… Well, a wolf can only be pushed so far. This book is beautifully illustrated with such fantastic humor that it is hard to imagine a reader who doesn’t want that wolf to bite.

Siân Gaetano is, before all else, a reader. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Children’s Literature at Simmons College (to be finished in  Summer 2013) and working evenings serving the good people of Boston food and beverage.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't even read the book, and I DO want the wolf to bite! Nice encapsulation, Siân. Thanks for sharing.

    - Susan