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The Wolves in the Walls Hardcover – August 5, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Truth be told, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's picture book The Wolves in the Walls is terrifying. Sure, the story is fairytale-like and presented in a jaunty, casually nonsensical way, but it is absolutely the stuff of nightmares. Lucy hears wolves hustling, bustling, crinkling, and crackling in the walls of the old house where her family lives, but no one believes her. Her mother says it's mice, her brother says bats, and her father says what everyone seems to say, "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." Lucy remains convinced, as is her beloved pig-puppet, and her worst fears are confirmed when the wolves actually do come out of the walls.

Up to this point, McKean's illustrations are spectacular, sinister collages awash in golden sepia tones evocative of the creepy beauty in The City of Lost Children. The wolves explode into the story in scratchy pen-and-ink, all jaws and eyes. The family flees to the cold, moonlit garden, where they ponder their future. (Her brother suggests, for example, that they escape to outer space where there's "nothing but foozles and squossucks for billions of miles.") Lucy wants to live in her own house...and she wants the pig-puppet she left behind.

Eventually she talks her family into moving back into the once-wolfish walls, where they peek out at the wolves who are watching their television and spilling popcorn on slices of toast and jam, dashing up the stairs, and wearing their clothes. When the family can't stand it anymore, they burst forth from the walls, scaring the wolves, who shout, "And when the people come out of the walls, it's all over!" The wolves flee and everything goes back to normal...until the tidy ending when Lucy hears "a noise that sounded exactly like an elephant trying not to sneeze." Adult fans of this talented pair will revel in the quirky story and its darkly gorgeous, deliciously shadowy trappings, but the young or faint of heart, beware! (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-Lucy hears sounds in her house and is certain that the "sneaking, creeping, crumpling" noises coming from inside the walls are wolves. Her parents and her brother know "if the wolves come out-, it's all over," and no one believes that the creatures are there-until they come out. Then the family flees, taking refuge outside. It is Lucy who bravely returns to rescue her pig puppet and who talks the others into forcing the animals to leave. Gaiman and McKean deftly pair text and illustrations to convey a strange, vivid story evolving from a child's worst, credible fear upon hearing a house creak and groan. Glowing eyes and expressive faces convey the imminent danger. This rather lengthy picture book displays the striking characteristics of a graphic novel: numerous four-panel pages opening into spreads that include painted people; scratchy ink-lined wolves; and photographed, computer-manipulated images. Children will delight in the "scary, creepy tone" and in the brave behavior displayed by the intrepid young heroine.
Marian Creamer, Children's Literature Alive, Portland, OR
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Lexile Measure: 500L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038097827X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380978274
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a strange, wonderful new book!
Neil Gaiman has long been one of my favorite authors, but I admit I had doubts as to how well he could write for children. With a history of gritty, streetwise characters, ( I'm thinking John Constantine, or maybe Door, here), I thought he might just be too edgy for the little ones.
All my fears were put to rest after reading The Wolves in the Walls, though for the kids they were just beginning!
The story is scary, especially accompanied by Dave McKean's dramatic illustrations. But, as surreal as the plot is, there is a comforting normality in the interactions of the characters.
Lucy, the young girl who is the only one of her family to recognize the danger lurking behind the house's walls, is reassuringly level-headed. She never panics, but reacts sensibly and courageously to the bizarre events which inspire only confusion and fear in her parents.
After the wolves come out, the family is forced to abandon the house. The mother and father, giving all up for lost, propose preposterous solutions to resolve the family's sudden homelessness. Dad thinks they might move to a desert island, mom suggests a hot-air balloon.
Lucy calmly rides out her family's panic, making some decisions about what is most important to her, and how best to save the day.
Gaiman never panders to children, and never assumes their fears are less valid than an adult's. Saying that, he also seems to have no qualms with playing off those fears.
I wish that as a child, I had read books that had really addressed my fears, and answered the question, just what if the wolves really had come out of the walls?
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Format: Hardcover
Lucy is a young girl living with her family in a house that manifests odd sounds in its walls. Her father -- preoccupied with his tuba playing -- swears the noises are caused by mice or rats. Her mother -- busying herself with bottling jam -- agrees that it is an insect or animal. Lucy's little brother -- the high score champ on all the houses' video games -- thinks it might be bats. But Lucy is sure that the bumps and bangs behind the walls are caused by wolves. "Not possible," they all say. "Because if it were wolves, IT would all be over."
It is soon discovered, however, that there ARE wolves in the walls, and they erupt into Lucy and her parents' house one night, chasing them out of their home and taking over the residence. The only item to make it out of the house was her father's primary tuba. Lucy's pig puppet, her mothers jams and foodstuffs, and her brothers video games are still in the house. And Lucy sneaks back up to find the wolves taking advantage of all these items (and even abusing her father's 'secondary' tuba).
The family soon tires of spending nights out in the garden and decide to take back their home. The ending is fun and enjoyable.
The story is light, non-bloody, and very enjoyable. Depending on your childrens level of understanding, this might be a very fun book for them. Mainly for two reasons...
One, it shows how a child can have power within her family and become a hero (even though this story is fictional). Two, the graphic images portrayed by artist Dave McKean are intersted, fresh and original.
I've read other reviews from readers here at Amazon and someone said that this story might be 'Too scarey to read to a child.' I disagree. There's no bloodshed, or gore, or excess violence. I think a child would be more frightened by what they read in a newspaper or see on the nightly news, rather than THIS book.
A+ children's story and graphics.
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Format: Hardcover
It's too beautiful to be a children's book. Inspired by a nightmare of one of his daughter's, author Neil Gaiman has developed a wonderful terrifying tale. Lucy can hear wolves in the walls of her home. She's quite certain of what she's hearing, but her family doesn't seem to believe her. When the wolves come out, it is (as the family has always said) all over. Lucy must find a way for her family to retake their home from the nasty, jam-eating, video game playing, tuba thumping wolves.
The pairing of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean on this book is inspired. Gaiman has often said in interviews that he sees this book less as a picture book and more as a graphic novel. The distinction is slight. In some cases the pages are separated into four panels (something you'd see in a comic book and not, necessarily, a story for children). But I disagree with Mr. Gaiman. This is a picture book and it shows. McKean has taken Gaiman's wonderfully twisted tale and created pictures that combine such a huge amount of different media, it could blow your mind. A single panel might have a gigantic wolf drawn in pen and ink with photos of socks on its feet and fabric beneath him for the bed.
Is the story too scary for children? Well, sure. For some children. I'm not going to grab the your two year-old and force them to read it. But kids with a healthy sense of humor and intelligence will like this book. It will not give them nightmares. It will not make them afraid of wolves for the rest of their little lives. But it will peak their interest and curiosity. I recommend it. It's a one in a million book.
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Format: Hardcover
I recently read this book outloud to my cousin and he LOVED it! The book is so intuitive and allows so much expression and voice intonation. The characters are distinct individuals and I could instantly find their voice. The art is simply amazing - I've been a fan of McKean for years. I really don't think kids should be underestimated in their intelligence to appreciate the interesting art that mixes striking artwork and snippits of pictures of real-life objects. There is more to the artwork than that, but that's another review.

Some may think this book will frighten children, but it seems more like a healthy lesson in showing how silly such fear can be. The book is more about defeating fear, as the family was able to get rid of the wolves so easily. In the end the things that seem so scary (monsters under the bed, etc) are silly things that can be defeated with a simple look. And it doesn't hurt that this book is written cleverly and with wonderful style.

I could go on and on about this book, but I will just sum up by saying: art is great, writing is great, story is fun and interesting and great for dramatic outloud readings, and the story is an excellent lesson in the silliness of childhood fears.
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