“High above the forest lives the wolf. An icy cry. Crazy eyes. We know to move our butts when the wolf comes down to eat.”
What a start for a children’s book! And this one is excellent, a sly, societal commentary cleverly disguised as a book for children. In this hybrid picture book/graphic novel for ages 7-11—all but the youngest ages will enjoy it—butts (cold) and underpants (warm, with a pocket for spare change) play important roles. Because it turns out that although the wolf does have sharp fangs and used to howl at the moon, he’s been a changed creature ever since the wise owl knit him a pair of cozy underpants.
“Comfort. It’s so important,” the wolf tells the forest animals.
They aren’t convinced, though, having built their entire social structure on lupine terror—and besides, what about the three pigs, who recently went missing? The wolf asserts that he had nothing to do with that, as he buys his groceries at the local store. Then he tells the locals to get a life instead of letting their lives be ruled by fear, and strolls off. At wit’s end, the badgers, aka the anti-wolf brigade, cry, “If the people aren’t scared, we’ve got no reason to exist!” These bon mots are just a few of the many witty words written by Wilfrid Lupano and paired perfectly with savvy illustrations by Mayana Itoïz and Paul Cauuet.
The Wolf in Underpants was nominated for a 2020 Eisner Award for “Best Publication for Kids,” and deservedly so, although it didn’t win. (The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are the Oscars of the graphic novel world.) Luckily a sequel came out this spring—The Wolf in Underpants Freezes his Buns Off—which I can’t wait to read. Hopefully it will match the cleverness of the first. In the meantime, though, The Wolf in Underpants is a fabulous guffaw of a read. (If your youngest readers have tender hearts, be aware that there’s a dark twist implied at the very end.)
Oh, and what did happen to the three little pigs? While it’s not quite Sweeney Todd, you’ll have to check out The Wolf in Underpants to find out.
Written by Wilfrid Lupano.
Illustrated by by Mayana Itoïz and Paul Cauuet
Translated from the French by Nathan Sacks.
2019, Graphic Universe/Lerner Publishing Group
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 translations are Little Josephine: Memory in Pieces (Life Drawn, 2020), Super Sisters (Papercutz, 2020), and Undead Messiah #3 (TOKYPOP, 2020).