cover image Wolf: 6

Wolf: 6

Sara Fanelli. Dial Books, $14.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2093-0

A common theme in children's books--being an outsider--is given a striking twist in collage-master Fanelli's visual extravaganza. Each page is filled with quirky depictions of city life (magenta skyscrapers, sidewalks made of newspaper) and cartoon-like city dwellers, and, despite the appearance of trees and animals, the tone of the book is stark and urban. Wolf sets off to the city in search of friends, but scares everyone he meets. His only warm reception is from children playing with masks, and they let him play along until they realize the ""mask"" is Wolf's real face. Wolf concludes that if he disguises his real self, he will be accepted. Fanelli seems to be saying that intimate contact can't happen in the city, and after Wolf leaves--fleeing for his life--he finally sees a smiling face (on another outcast) and makes a friend. In the end, the urbanites see the error of their ways and sit down with Wolf for a picnic. Fanelli (My Map Book) once again makes a bold artistic statement with a graphic pastiche that combines paint, paper, fabric and photographs. The artist's sophisticated arrangement of varied shapes and bold colors draws the eye, but the unconventional type is awkwardly placed and may hinder readers' enjoyment of the unusual layout. In addition, Wolf's triumph may seem simplistic to adults; however, Fanelli's eclectic and artful illustrations will win over many readers of all ages. Ages 4-8. (May)