Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Wolves in the Walls

Pic courtesy amazon.co.uk 
The Wolves in the Walls
Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean
Published by Bloomsbury

Lucy hears noises in her room at night. She knows what they are. There are wolves in the wall!

"Rats!" says her mother, unconcerned, busy with housework.

"Bats!" says her brother, busy with his school work.

Her father, a tuba player, doesn't even think it worthwhile to give her an explanation.

All of them tell her- "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." 

And then, the scraping and scratching noises grow louder and louder, until one night, the wolves DO come out of the walls.

So is it over? Not by a long shot! It is just the beginning. The beginning of courage in Lucy, who, after scampering outside with her family, away from the wolves, realises that her pink pig-puppet has been left behind. And he has to be rescued. Inspite of her fear of the wolves. To her, it is her baby. Not "just a puppet!" as her father puts it.

So what happens next? Does Lucy manage to get into the house and rescue her pink pig-puppet from the clutches of the wolves? And do they manage to drive the wolves out, after all?

A and I read this nail-biting, on-the-edge-of-our-seats story recently, and A loved it. As she rightly put it- "I'm glad I'm not so little anymore, or I would have been really frightened."  For the book is the stuff of nightmares. So although it is a picture book that can be read aloud to younger children, maybe 5+, I would still put the appropriate age at 8+.

We visited Neil Gaiman, the writer in this post during CROCUS 2010. All the books that I have read by him were spooky to an extent I was not comfortable with introducing to A, knowing her. So when I read through this book, it came to me that here was the perfect book with which to introduce this wonderful writer to her.

And the illustrations! Done in a combination of pen-and-ink sketches, watercolours and actual photographs, Dave McKean has brought the 'spooky' factor alive for us. It has that unmistakeable quality of graphic novels, where sometimes pictures speak more than words. Full page, in dark shades, alternating between hazy and stark, with the text written at strategic points. Dark but funny, realistic yet enchantingly fairy-tale like. A perfect foil for Gaiman's story-telling.

Two pictures struck us as extraordinary- the page on which the wolves come out of the walls- she let out a small scream, the dynamic energy of the wolves running out, with that 'almost heard in your head' baying that can be easily imagined. Another is the page on which the family is huddled outside around a fire- the fire has a very realistic glow in the overlapping strokes of red, yellow and orange that the artist has used. One could almost feel the heat.

A great book for addressing those things that go 'bump' in the night.

Crossposted here.

6 comments:

sathish said...

Hi Sandhya, Sooraj and I read this book long back. we enjoyed it.

I would probably say it is probably appropriate for 5+ too.

Choxbox said...

Thanks S and S. Will check this one out.

sathish said...

oops. there are so many "probably" in my earlier comment.

I meant - "I feel it is appropriate for ages 5+ too"

sandhya said...

@Satish: When I saw this book, I thought about you and Ranjani- was thinking to myself that this is something that you probably have read.:)
The 8+ tag is just in the context of our family- as I'm sure A would not have been comfortable with it at 5. I've mentioned this in my post.:) So hey, whatever works for the kid!

@Chox- You should check it out. There at the library.

artnavy said...

Nice review Sandhya. I think i need a better library now for Anush

sandhya said...

Thanks, Art.

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