We French people like our ‘gros méchants loups’ (big bad wolves), there is little doubt about that. Mario Ramos’ I Am So Strong, Bénédicte Guettier’s I Am the Wolf … and Here I Come and Stephanie Blake’s Poo Bum, are only a handful of titles (all published by Gecko Press) which are testament to that. Children like to ‘play’ with fear, test their boundaries, and the big bad wolf plays this role perfectly.
HELP! The Wolf is Coming! embraces this theme, and one would be forgiven to think that it is therefore not offering anything very original. However, here delivery is key. Like Hervé Tullet’s Press Here or Richard Byrne’s This Book Just Ate My Dog, the book creators here take full advantage of the book as an object to create an interactive experience. No flaps, no tricks, just the reader who is asked to take control of the book itself: the wolf is coming … STOP him! It is up to the reader to take action to help create the narrative.
Throughout the book, readers are made to take decisions to further the story. The use of imperative tense compels the reader to get involved; regardless of age (even … errr … 40), you are coerced into tipping the book, even though you know that it makes no difference, really. Imagine the effect on those little people who have much more open minds?
The succinct text works on anticipation, and tension-building. This is mirrored in the illustrations, with each turn of the page brings the wolf closer. The artwork is bold and simple, creating focus where it is needed: the wolf, its immediate physical space. It is so deceptively simple yet timed to perfection.
At the end of the story, the reader has managed to get away from the wolf. Or has he? The ending invites him to make a choice: go back to the beginning and acknowledge he has not got away from the the threat and consequently of his possible fear. The idea of putting the reader in control therefore, though seemingly an entertainment device, does fit a purpose mentioned earlier: experimenting with fear and our personal boundaries. These things are crucial for toddlers, and what better way to do it than with utter glee?
Perfectly pitched, perfectly timed, perfectly delivered. HELP! The Wolf is Coming! will delight its targeted audience, and well beyond that.
Source: review copy from Bounce Marketing