BEWARE OF THE STORYBOOK WOLVES
Lauren Child, . . Scholastic/Levine, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-20500-9
Herb loves his Little Red Riding Hood picture book, with its lupine villain and its back-cover ad for "The Little Fierce Wolf and the Three Pink Piglets." He also prefers to keep the book at a distance, "Because there's a wolf in it, of course." One night, after his mother mistakenly leaves it on his bedside table, Herb smells wolf breath and hears "a deep rumbling sound... like the rumbling of a very hungry tummy." He flicks on the lamp and sees his two storybook wolves licking their chops. Herb grabs a fairy-tale treasury, flips to a picture of a fairy godmother "and shook it until she tumbled out of the book and onto the floor." With the godmother's help, the wolves are banished. Despite the tense situations, Child keeps the mood light with brightly patterned cut paper and collage elements like sequins and feathers. She alleviates dark areas with ample negative space and with backdrops of pale pink and robin's-egg blue. Her mock-threatening wolves have ridiculous pointy noses, prickly fur and incongruous coats and ties. The chatty narrative is not as effective here as it is in Child's Clarice Bean series; it reads a bit like an ad-lib, with too many twists and turns. Yet Child succeeds in dramatizing ambivalence to scary books, which provide excitement but harbor nightmarish creatures in their pages. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 04/30/2001