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4.2 out of 5 stars
Wolves
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Right off the bat I want to make something perfectly clear. I am going to give away the ending of this picture book and I'm going to give it away repeatedly. I'm going to talk at length as to the implications of what the ending means, how that ending fits into the larger scheme of children's book publishing today, and whether the ending is, in fact, any good at all. So if you like surprises in your books for the preschool set, consider eschewing this review. I'm painting a great big SPOILER ALERT here in bright red shiny letters, each syllable capped off with flickering lights and vaguely carnivalian music.

All set? Right-o. Now, I think I first heard about "Wolves" through the children's librarian grapevine. You know. The one where you hear someone say at a staff meeting, "Have you seen this book called `Wolves'?" I actually saw the book one-on-one in a bookstore, though, and it's no secret as to why I picked it up. It has an infinitely appealing cover. Pure white with just a fuzzy bunny, pointy nose held high and the straightforward black font of the word WOLVES above the tasteful maroon of the author's name. So I picked it up, gave it the old look-see, and found that it was like nothing I'd perused this year.

A rabbit goes to his local "burrowing" library to check out a book on wolves. While walking home he starts to read about those wild and wily animals. It turns out that wolves can survive in lots of places and that they can have forty-two teeth. As the rabbit reads facts like these, nose planted firmly in his book, he doesn't see that the characters in his story have seemingly stepped off the page. Wolves follow the bunny everywhere until, in a final moment of jeopardy, we see only the book that our hero was reading, torn and slashed to bits. On the next page, however, we are assured that in an alternative ending the wolf was a vegetarian and all ended happily. Of course, the two-page spread after that may tell a different story altogether...

There are plenty of picture books in which the protagonist dies unexpectedly and in a suitably humorous fashion. I am thinking of books like "Ugly Fish" by Kara LaReau or "Tadpole's Promise" by Jeanne Willis. If we're talking children's literary trends, this has to be acknowledged. Never before have so many books so willingly allowed the hero of the story to be eaten in an untimely manner. What does this say about our society as a whole? Haven't a clue. Maybe our kids have always been able to handle this dark humor and authors are only now responding in kind. I mean, how different is this mild violence from the Bugs Bunny cartoons and Muppet Show segments of our own youth?

That said, Gravett does something with the ending of "Wolves" that allows it to stand apart from its gently demented brethren. Gravett has invested a great deal of care in this story, and it shows. Once the bunny has disappeared with only a torn up book left in its wake, the next two pages show a single torn slip of paper containing the words, "The author would like to point out that no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book. It is a work of fiction. And so, for more sensitive readers, here is an alternative ending." Fair enough. But rather than draw an additional scene for the last part of the book, Gravett does something pretty clever. We see the rabbit and the wolf chowing down on a hitherto unmentioned jam sandwich together. The thing is, Gravett has taken a great deal of care to show a spread that squeamish parents will buy as a legitimate ending, and intelligent children will not. The text, first of all, is purposefully saccharine. "Luckily this wolf was a vegetarian, so they shared a jam sandwich, became the best of friends, and lived happily ever after." No human being on the planet could read those lines and not come off sounding like Glinda the Good Witch from the filmed "Wizard of Oz". Then look at the pictures. The rabbit is there, sure, and the wolf too, and they certainly SEEM to be eating a jam sandwich. Look a little closer, though, and it's clear that these characters have been ripped out of earlier illustrations and haphazardly arranged on the page. The jam in the sandwich is the same material as the book the rabbit was reading earlier. The jaw of the wolf hangs loosely from his head while the rest of his limbs look like they've been plucked from earlier pictures in the book. And even EVEN if the reader buys this ending, they've the last two-page spread to deal with. On a mat that presumably would be under the Rabbit's front door mail slot, a pile of letters, bills, and menus all addressed to G. Rabbit lay scattered. One of these is a library notice from the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library showing that the rabbit's book "Wolves" is now seriously overdue. Any guesses as to why?

And have I mentioned the art? I have not. Aside from what can only be called one-of-a-kind storytelling, Gravett is a wiz with mixed media. From postcards and envelopes to the cloth binding of the book the bunny carries with him, the real and the unreal meld seamlessly into one another. The rabbit is drawn but has a three dimensional quality. He has the ability to walk in front of montages that show what his book looks like as he reads it. Gravett's details are even more remarkable. When the rabbit leaves with a book about wolves you can see that one of the books left on the shelf that he could have taken has a rabbit on the cover instead. Stains are visible on the back of the rabbit's book and the very binding on the spine shows that it was published by Simon & Schuster (which makes me wonder if the original Great Britain version read "Macmillan" overseas). Actually, I think a lot of things were changed inside the book so as to render it Yankee friendly. Phone numbers are clearly American. Ditto addresses. And in a different vein I suppose a person could raise some kind of a stink over the fact that the wolves seem to grow bigger and the rabbit smaller as the danger rises to its peak. That, however, I feel was a conscious act on the part of the illustrator that allowed her to bring the climax to a fever pitch. Finally, the view of the rabbit's book, now criss-crossed with rips and tears and even a bite or two is worth the price of admission alone.

Recently I reviewed another picture book that, like this one, originally made its publication debut in Great Britain. When I talked about "The Opposite" by Tom MacRae I spoke of the distinctly English air the title carried in its wake. "Wolves" does not carry that same air, but it does have a distinctly foreign sense of humor. None of that is to say that American audiences of a certain stripe won't immediately latch on to what Gravett is able to do here. The real joke of the book is that "Wolves" really does contain actual honest-to-goodness factual information about the animals in question. A kid reading "Wolves" could actually learn a lot about those critters by reading this book. So you have your real with your unreal, your mixed-media and twist endings alongside your non-fiction subject matter and drawn characters. I hate to get all academic on you, but "Wolves" can definitely be read on several different levels here. Some kids will dig it. Others will stare at it with undisguised confusion and then demand a seventy-fifth reading of "The Giving Tree". In the end, Gravett has done the near impossible. She's created something amusing, disturbing, and never seen before. A great book if you know what you're in for and can appreciate what the author/illustrator has done.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Big bad wolves. We all know they're out there. Right? There's no denying it. So if you go to the Burrowing Library to check out a book on wolves, you do know to look right and left on your way home. Look behind you. Keep a 360 going because wolves are known to sneak up on you.

Tell that to our Bunny. You know how they are--they like to be scared! What's the scariest? Wolves. Bunny checks out a book simply called "Wolves." Wow, they look so real on the pages! Bunny, look behind you--a wolf got out and is in his Granny clothes. Bunny, look out, he's part of those trees just ahead. Bunny, you're walking on his feet. Please look up.

Until it is too late. The jagged tears on the book cover, the chewed ends show us the truth. The torn-out piece of paper with one word: Rabbits. We tried to warn the Bunny. But here's a note from the author: No rabbits were harmed in the creation of this book. And for sensitive children, here is an alternative ending: Torn out pieces from the book re-fit, cubist style, to recreate the new ending. Bunny and Wolf having a jam sandwich. Only a comatose child couldn't figure out that this is really just a fake ending. Besides, look at all the stacked up over-due notices lying at Bunny's door--unread.

When I finished reading this to my great-niece, Carolina, she gasped audibly, jerked her head toward me, scrunched up her face the way she does, and said, "Let's read another book." So much for alternate endings for sensitive children.

"Do you know what happened to the Bunny?"
"Yes, he got ate!"
"Does that bother you, Carolina?"
"No, Aunt Judy. It's a book. Silly!"

She's four. I'm way older. It bothered me.

Note: Actually, I love this wildly creative book!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Emily Gravett, Wolves (Simon and Schuster, 2006)

Wolves was an award winner overseas before finally getting published here in America, and it's easy to see why. This is a brilliant little book, funny and informative and supremely disgusting no matter what your moral stance. It's a must, especially if you've got kids.

A rabbit borrows a book on wolves (written, in true meta fashion, by Emily Grrrabbit) and reads it on his way home from the library, so absorbed that he never notices that the path has hanged under his feet as he's walking. It's the subtle things that make the first part of the book wonderful, like the way the rabbit's size decreases on every page as the danger gets greater and greater. Then comes the ending (and the alternate ending; the very idea of including an alternate ending in a kids' book is itself hysterical), and Gravett abandons the subtlety for slap-in-the-face humor that's actually funny.

I know I've said it many times in the last couple of years, as I've reviewed kids' books, but I'll say it again here: if most adult books were as well put together as the kids' books I've been running across, I'd have a lot less reason to be turning to kids' books to get a breath of fresh air. It often seems that the quality of kids' books these days is, on average, higher than that of adult books, which is truly depressing. But if you know where to look, you can mine the vein of kids' books for pure gold, and you find it in Emily Gravett. ****
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Overall it's a very simple story of a Rabbit getting a book on wolves to learn a few things about them. The artwork is interesting My daughter liked the imagery used for the wolves as they kept getting closer and closer.

The one thing that did bother her was the page where there are two giant eyeballs right behind the rabbit and the rabbit has a wide eyed expression of "oh oh"

I diffused the situation by using a Bruce voice(the shark in Nemo) and saying "Hello Lunch!" She likes Bruce and thought it was funny.

She didn't get the implied meaning of the rabbit being eaten by the page with Rabbit's torn up book.

The alternative ending is funny as I think it's meant as a joke but I think my daughter liked it better.

I would say if your child is sensitive and doesn't really grasp that some animals eat other animals; you could delay this one for a little while.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever gone to the library to learn about something? Sure we all have at some point or another. Anyway, the main character in this book is a dumb little rabbit that picks up a book at the library on wolves and as the story unfolds the rabbit learns a few facts about the dog-like animal. Ultimately the little rabbit learns that wolves like to eat rabbits. I'm not sure the little rabbit found this out from reading the book or from the wolf he ran into as the story progressed. You read the book and find out.

I found it kind of odd that there were two alternative endings to the story. I would have liked the book better if there had been just one ending, but having two endings didn't ruin the story.

The illustrations in this book were quite imaginative. However, I was a little surprised that the rabbit was so small that he could walk on the bridge of a wolf's nose. 4 stars!
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on February 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Wolves is a great book to represent elements of a postmodern picture book! The author interrupts the “primary narrator” (the rabbit) by putting a disclaimer letting the reader know that “no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book.” There is also a shifting of registers during the story. It begins with the rabbit reading the story in the library and it looks as though the rabbit has stepped into the book as he’s reading it. The background colors and the setting help show this shift. It almost feels like there should be an intrusive character in the story (the wolf) but the rabbit is so oblivious to what’s going on around him (“his nose is stuck in a book”) he doesn’t realize it. After the rabbit gets eaten the torn up book provides a three dimensional image that is characteristic of postmodern picture books. Any pages that show the rabbit reading the book also provide a three dimensional image. The text is very traditional in nature—a Times New Roman font is used and is mostly in white sections of the pages. The text becomes non-traditional after the narrator is interrupted. There’s also an element of irony—a rabbit is reading about wolves.
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on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
She can be so hard to figure out.

We've read a number of "darker" books. Generally, I find that the more comically they're illustrated and written, the more she'll enjoy them. The ones written in a more serious and realistic fashion tend to upset her and scare her.

So when she picked this one out at the library, I was dubious. Still, it's a short book, we could easily put it down.

Rabbit takes a book out at the library on wolves. He's so absorbed in the facts (which we read too) that he doesn't see he's literally walking right into a wolf's mouth until it's too late. He's clearly eaten, but just in case there are any sensitive children reading we have a deliberately poorly-done "alternative ending" set up. (Just in case they're really taken in, the buildup of mail outside Rabbit's door, including a very overdue notice for that book, tells the real tale!)

This book is written very dryly and very seriously. I would expect it to upset her - but no, she requested several re-reads. Go figure.

Read this before you buy, it might be too much for your kid. But if it's not, go for it. It's a good book if your kid likes it!
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on January 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This clever story stars a rabbit that goes to the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library and checks out a book about wolves. As the story unfolds, we see the rabbit-with nose in book-devouring factual information about wolves (ie. an adult wolf has 42 teeth), while at the same time being stalked by a wolf. As the book goes on, the rabbit becomes smaller and smaller, while the wolf becomes larger and more threatening. Eventually the rabbit realizes the trouble he is in, and the result is a partially eaten book and no rabbit. But never fear, on the next page the author points out that the book is a work of fiction and "no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book." She then goes on to provide an ending for "sensitive readers," that's very tongue in cheek and quite funny. If your child is quite sensitive, you might skip this book. But if your child has a good sense of humor, likes learning facts about wolves and appreciates looking at the subtle details in pictures, then this book is a good choice.
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on February 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The story is about a rabbit that takes a book out of the library titled ‘Wolves’. It expands the conventional boundaries of picture book formats. Inside there are many facts about wolves and each page is a fascinating journey of its own. Multiple perspectives or realities are depicted. The rabbit can be seen reading the book while at the back the wolf is being pictured in various situations. For example, eventually the rabbit is supposedly gobbled up by the wolf however an alternative ending leaves some readers satisfied. Multiple story lines are presented through words and pictures, but the writing does not fit the pictures. The writing is informational while the illustrations are fictional. This book is essentially a fiction book, or is it informational? An argument I’m sure that can be had among many people for a lifetime. You will certainly be pleased while reading this different tale that takes you through a surprising perspective.
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on February 3, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
We love Emily Gravett at our house. Even when her books are bad, they are good. There is always just some redeeming quality about them. Usually if all else fails, the artwork alone is worth the price of admission. The same holds true about the art in this one. The rest of the book is pretty good, but the concept for the book, the art, and the ending really shine in this one. It basically tells the tail of a rabbit who has checked out a scary book at the library about wolves. The more the rabbit reads, the more lifelike and out of the book the wolves become. See, great concept. Then you gte to the end, where an ending you expect happens, only to be followed by a second ending you completely don't expect. What fun! Art 4 out of 5 stars, Concept: 4 out of 5 stars, Writing: 3 out of 5 stars, Ending: 5 out of 5 stars.
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