What’s a young, hungry but well-mannered young wolf to do when given a last wish by his freshly-captured future meal?
Grant it…of course, just as his parents taught him to do!
In this wickedly sly picture book for ages 4-8 by Jean Leroy, our polite wolf on the hunt for his first prey encounters a rabbit, a chicken and a little boy. No slavering animal he, the young wolf grants each a last wish, and the first two live for another day by hiding when the wolf goes off to grant said wish. The little boy, though, requests a drawing and actually stays to get it–much to the wolf’s astonishment. (Speaking of drawings, Matthieu Maudet’s lean, comics-style line illustrations in reds, mustards, browns, and grays match the tight writing with just the right comedic touch.)
The reader starts out siding with the rabbit and the chicken—after all, who wants to be eaten, right?— and yet one’s opinion slowly changes as the honorable wolf finds his faith in manners dashed twice in a row.
What happens to the little boy? Here one finds oneself strongly rooting for fellow-species survival, and survive he does. But you’ll have to read the rest of this darkly funny book to determine whether liars prosper or manners rule in this surprising morality tale, a modern-day fable about the value of promises, truth, and manners, all in the stark context of hunger and survival. Who knew a humorous picture book could pack such punch?
NB: There is no translator named. When I—in disappointment, as I like to see the translator credited—reached out to the publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, I discovered that this well-executed translation was done in-house by the publisher’s staff, probably one of the very few situations where I’d be vaguely comfortable blogging about a translation that doesn’t credit the translator(s).
A Well-Mannered Young Wolf
Written by Jean Leroy
Illustrated by Matthieu Molnar
Translated from the French by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2013, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Read an interview with the author
Awards: Prairie Bud Book Award 2018-19; USBBY Oustanding International Book List, Grades Pre-K-2, 2017; Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth 2017: Humrous Picture Books; Booklist 2016 Editors’ Choice, Books for Youth, Young Readers, Fiction, Nominee
Reviews: Publishers Weekly starred review; Kirkus, Junior Library Guild, NY Journal of Books
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Her most recent translation is Who Killed Kenny (NBM Publishing, 2019), with Little Josephine and A House Without Windows (both Life Drawn/Humanoids) The Sisters, vol. 5: M.Y.O.B. and Supersisters, vol. 1 and 2 ( Papercutz), and Bibi & Miyu (TOKYOPOP, 2020) upcoming.