by John Rocco
Aesop's fables have the necessary timelessness, charm, and appeal, as evidenced by their popularity even today.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, one of the tales attributed to Aesop, takes a sharp turn from the classic in this imaginative take by John Rocco.
An old and partially deaf wolf is tending to his wild vegetable patch, infuriated by the weeds he is unable to keep in check.
He hears a boy cry "Wolf! Wolf!" and lumbers over to the source believing he is being summoned for some odd reason.
He sees seething villagers respond to the same call, armed and ready to thrash the savage beast.
He hides and watches the juicy goats he cannot have.
He hobbles back to his home, hungry and tired.
How the boy manages to not get eaten, comes to willingly give one of his goats to the wolf, and what happens to the goat and the boy subsequently has to be read first-hand to be enjoyed.
The illustrations are what attracted me to the book at first glance at the library. And now that I've read it a few dozen times to the resident 3 yo, the illustrations and the cleverness of the story has left me awestruck! [ View sample pages]
Folktales and fables blur the line between humans and animals, infusing each with characteristics of the other. Rocco's Wolf lives in a cherry blossom filled Chinese countryside, wears a traditional shirt with the symbol of longevity on it, and carries a parasol. He seems determined to be a vegetarian, tired of the daily struggle to stalk and catch his meal.
As far as the villagers go, the story is much the same classic one where they turn up to find the boy making a fool of them. However, the clever narration comes from the perspective of the wolf - information we are not privy to in the traditional telling of the tale.
Did I mention the illustrations blew me away? The warm dusty tones of timelessness, the expressions on the villagers' faces, the relative sidelining of the boy's prominence (the central character of the original story), the various close-ups and angles of perspective of the scenes depicted, the refreshing setting... each page is a work of art, as John Rocco describes in the making of Wolf! Wolf! I was particularly fascinated by this fact:
Once I got all the details right, I made a tonal pencil drawing on Strathmore bristol paper. Once the drawing was complete I scanned it into my computer and digitally painted the colors using Adobe Photoshop.
Of course, there's The True Story Of Three Little Pigs that exonerates the Big Bad Wolf, The True Story Of Goldilocks And The Three Bears which reveals the crafty side of Goldilocks, and The True Story Of Little Red Riding Hood wherein we catch the green-eyed monster rearing inside Red Riding Hood after she helps Wolf 's total transformation...
Looks like, Fresh Perspectives are becoming the norm in retelling classics these days.
[image courtesy of: Eric Carle Museum Shop]