Book: A Well-Mannered Young Wolf
Author: Jean Leroy
Illustrator: Matthieu Maudet
Age Range: 4-8
A Well-Mannered Young Wolf, written by Jean Leroy and illustrated by Matthieu Maudet, is a darkly humorous tale with an ending that Jon Klassen fans should appreciate. While technically it is a book about the benefits that can come from using proper manners, the deadpan delivery makes it far more entertaining than didactic. The story begins:
"A young wolf, whose parents had taught him good manners, went hunting alone in the forest for the first time."
The wolf catches a rabbit, but is polite enough to offer the rabbit a last request. When the rabbit's request requires the wolf to leave for a time, the rabbit promises to stay put in order to be eaten later. But, of course, when the wolf returns, the rabbit is gone. The frustrated, but still polite, young wolf goes through a similar process with a chicken. But when a young boy is polite enough to keep his word to the wolf, the wolf finds that he wants to reward the boy. In the end, characters get what they deserve (in the sense that polite = deserving).
Leroy's narration is pitch-perfect for the story. Like this: "Furious, the hunter resumed his search for more prey to devour" and "At the idea of having to return home a third time, the young hunter exploded with rage."
There's also quite a bit of dialog. And in that dialog are direct references to what is and isn't polite, as taught by the parents of the various characters. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a fun text to read aloud.
Maudet's illustrations have a spare, cartoon-like feel, with a limited color palette. They display a sly sense of humor. For example, the wolf captures the chicken by throwing a book at it. There's a little thundercloud over the wolf's head when he is angry, and we can also tell a lot about what he's feeling from the appearance of his teeth and eyebrows.
This book was originally published in France, and to me there does seem to be a French sensibility to it, though I'm hard-pressed to express what makes me say that. What I can say is that the ending made me laugh. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a quiet title, but one that I think kids with a relatively sophisticated sense of humor will enjoy. Recommended!
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: October 3, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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