Neil Gaiman,
The Wolves in the Walls,
illustrated by Dave McKean
(HarperCollins, 2003)

What a strange, wonderful new book!

Neil Gaiman has long been one of my favorite authors, but I admit I had doubts as to how well he could write for children. With a history of gritty, streetwise characters (I'm thinking Hellblazer's John Constantine, or maybe Neverwhere's Door, here), I thought he might just be too edgy for the little ones.

All my fears were put to rest after reading The Wolves in the Walls, though for the kids they were just beginning! The story is scary, especially accompanied by Dave McKean's dramatic illustrations. But, as surreal as the plot is, there is a comforting normality in the interactions of the characters.

Lucy, the young girl who is the only one of her family to recognize the danger lurking behind the house's walls, is reassuringly level-headed. She never panics, but reacts sensibly and courageously to the bizarre events which inspire only confusion and fear in her parents. Once the wolves come out, the family is forced to abandon the house. The mother and father, giving all up for lost, propose preposterous solutions to resolve the family's sudden homelessness. Dad thinks they might move to a desert island, Mom suggests a hot-air balloon.

Lucy calmly rides out her family's panic, making decisions about what is most important to her and how best to save the day.

Gaiman never panders to children and never assumes their fears are less valid than an adult's. Saying that, he also seems to have no qualms with playing off those fears. This book is even better than I expected!

I wish that as a child, I had read books that had really addressed my fears, and answered the question, just what if the wolves really had come out of the walls?

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 6 March 2004

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