If you live in the UK, you may have seen this advert for The Guardian newspaper on TV recently which sheds light in a playful way, on the 'real' issues behind the story of the three little pigs. I enjoyed this follow up article yesterday by a primary school teacher who has been using it (or perhaps the less gritty print version) to inspire debate and writing in her classroom. Today's choice; 'The Wolf's Whistle' by Bjorn Rune Lie from the ever-inspiring and beautiful Nobrow press would have slotted neatly into her lesson plan; although possibly a little dark and subtle for her six year old class.
This is the first in a promised series of fairy tale back stories; 'Behind the Tails' and I'm looking forward to the rest (we're promised the transformation of 'Hazel' from master patissier to child-eating witch and how a troll developed a taste for goat ragu).
Albert is a wimpy comic-loving wolf from the wrong side of the docks who is bullied as the scholarship boy at his snobbish school by the three trottered 'Honeyroast' brothers. With his other misfit geek friends; Chauncey mouse, Libby stork and Vincente weasel he escapes the bullies in healthy outdoor pursuits, that will prime him for his waiting destiny:
'Every abandoned railway, forbidden rapid and disused warehouse was their playground. And the best part was: it was all free!'
Albert also dreams of becoming a professional comic artist, developing his own series 'The Wolf's Whistle', where the Lone Wolf battles his arch nemesis the evil Dr. Chorizo. Albert even has his own Superhero cloak ready and waiting under his bed.
Years pass and we catch up with Albert on his 30th birthday,working only as an anonymous dogsbody for his favourite comic publishers. Meanwhile the Honeyroast brothers with their mobster dad 'Al Prosciutto' are running the town in best corrupt gangster fashion:
They 'liked nothing better than to lounge around their pork chop-shaped pool drinking apple cider and stuffing their faces with white truffles'.
When the Honeyroast brothers arrange the destruction of a listed building to further their property empire, Albert's pals perish in the blaze. A despairing Albert sobs on a park bench, then a mysterious hobo hands him a bottle marked 'The Great Hurricane 1938':
'It's mighty powerful stuff. It will give you all the strength you'll ever need...'
It is time for the real Lone Wolf to emerge and avenge.
The subtleties of the references to prohibition America and the Great Depression were obviously lost on Bill, but he understands a Superhero creation myth when he sees one. He spent enough of his early years dressed exclusively as one. As with 'Hilda and the Midnight Giant' this is not strictly speaking a children's book but it has plenty to chew over and appreciate for all ages. Without wanting to sound horribly dry I think this would make a great purchase for a school librarian looking for a low reading level, high interest content book for older kids.
And what a beautiful and inspiring one too which could be spiralled out from in many different directions. All Nobrow books are lovely quality tactile covetable things and the printwork in this is exceptional. Not cheap but definitely worth the investment.
'The Wolf's Whistle' by Bjorn Rune Lie, pub. Nobrow isbn 978-1-907704-03-1
(for those interested in outcomes of Tuesday's caterpillar hunt here are Joseph, Harry, Georgina and Rose , who will eventually become the dull, and nastily named brown beet armyworm moth I think. They are a temporary but much loved addition to the family)