knock knock knock!

pictures by R.W. Alley (Roaring Brook Press, 2008),
ages 4 and up, 40 pp.

There’s a wolf at the door!

Believe me, you’ll want to let him in. Better brace yourself first, though. Chances are good that you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as I was, at just how uproarious, snarky, and hip these five classic tales can be.  

They all feature the very same top hat and tails, decidedly dapper, dastardly, famished wolf, who prowls through these familiar plots in search of a good meal (or two, or three). He stars in:

The Three Little Pigs
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Little Red Riding Hood
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, and
The Wolf and the Seven Little Goslings.

The husband and wife team of R.W. Alley and Zoë B. Alley (both freely admit to liking initials), have created a graphic folklore wonder. Is it a picture book? A comic? Or a graphic novel for younger readers (ages 4-8)? All of the above.

And it’s big. Big trim size (11 x 14). Big fun. Big talent, literary and artistic. The five interwoven nursery tales are retold in sequential comic panels, complete with speech balloons containing the pithiest of one liners. The panels themselves differ in size and shape, with each page layout designed to heighten the action. This gives the whole an expansive, unrestricted feel, underscoring its rollicking, topsy turvy tone.

from The Three Little Pigs

Debut author Zoë B. Alley has thrown caution (and pork chops) to the wind with her unconventional use of street legal names and distinctive personalities for characters who have traditionally been portrayed as two-dimensional. Did you know that the three pigs are actually Alan, Gordon and Blake? Who knew that when Gordon built his house of sticks, he faced a termite problem? Or that uber-cool, clever Blake, who outwits the wolf with nary a blink of an eye, is actually a poet with a penchant for rhyme: "Sturdy and strong, shouldn’t take me too long?"

from Little Red Riding Hood

And don’t get me started on Rhonda — a somewhat shallow little girl who loves fashion and the color red. Why shouldn’t she don a little sass with her red hooded cape? Would you like to go out and get your newly curled hair all frizzy? And the wolf, disguised in Granny’s nightie, doesn’t know what hit him when Rhonda chastises his fashion sense: "Did no one ever tell you not to wear white after Labor Day?"

Poor wolf! He’s foiled every time by crazy circumstances and cheeky characters who would challenge even the cleverest of carnivores. Alas, no pork chops, roast lamb with mint sauce, shepherd’s pie, or goose dumplings for him. He is last seen heading for Mr. McGregor’s garden with a newfound desire to become a vegetarian.

No, these are definitely not your mother’s wolf stories. The comic timing is spot on, and each storyline is enhanced, enriched and expanded through vibrant and engaging ink and watercolor illos that perfectly depict the quirky cast in all their gustatory glory. Readers of all ages will easily find lots to revel in; this book would be great as a group read aloud, or will provide many giggly hours for the quiet reader who enjoys poring over every charming detail.

There’s a Wolf at the Door has already received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus and Hornbook. It’s been nominated for a 2008 Cybils Award in the Graphic Novels (Middle Grade) category, and was just listed as one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Best Children’s Books to Read and Share. Sounds like the perfect holiday gift to me!

Peek inside the book at the publisher’s website here.

Read a Publishers Weekly interview with the Alleys here.

**And stay tuned: the one and only Zoë B. Alley will be stopping by for a SOUP’S ON interview very soon. Don’t miss it!

Interior spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2008 R.W. Alley, published by Roaring Brook Press. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “knock knock knock!

  1. Ooh, this one looks like FUN!
    I especially liked this line:
    “Scared, hungry, and tired of rhyming, the wolf ran and ran until he reached greener pastures.”


  2. I. MUST. HAVE. THIS. BOOK. Going to look for a library copy now.
    Thank you thank you for this post. Of course, I love picture book posts where art is shared. You’re a blogger after my very own heart. The book looks fabulous, and I look forward to the interview.
    Alan, Gordon, and Blake. I love it.
    I love the cover. Such perfect composition and draws you right in.


  3. You will definitely love it, Jules. So, so funny — especially those sheep! I think the graphic novel format for younger readers is definitely an exciting trend. The stories can be read on multiple levels, appealing to a broader age group — adults included!


  4. I’m sure you’ll find it hilarious, as I did. And as an illustrator, you’ll fully appreciate r.w. alley’s free wielding tour de force. What fun it must have been for both of them to create this book!


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