The Wolves in the Walls

written by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Dave McKean

Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls
illustrated by Charles Vess

Book review by Natasha Withers

Ages 6-12

When the wolves come out of the walls, is it all over? Not if young Lucy can help it

Lucy and her family live together in a big, old house. They are an ordinary family: Lucy’s mother makes homemade jam, her father plays the tuba and her brother plays video games….Then Lucy hears “sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises coming from inside the walls” and deduces that surely it must be wolves.

Neil Gaiman is an award-winning author for books for adults, graphic novels and children’s books. He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling children’s book, Coraline.

As can be seen from his earlier works, he is an amazing fiction weaver of all things dark and creepy; Gaiman certainly does not hold this back in The Wolves in the Walls.

Every child has gone through a time when they are afraid of something: monsters under the bed or ghosts in the closest (I myself went through a horrible phase of being afraid of pictures and photographs looking at me). Lucy’s fear is that there are wolves living inside the walls of her home, watching her and her family from holes in the paintings and cracks in the walls (something that at her age I would not be able to stand at all).

Her worries are brushed aside by her family members, much like how some parents will laugh at their children’s overactive imaginations; however, they all say the same thing in regard to the wolves: “If the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” Though it is a bit annoying that no one seems to want to explain to Lucy (or the reader) exactly what “it” is, our heroine does not have much time to dwell on this, because sure enough, the wolves do come out of the walls.

The thing that makes this book such a great read is the protagonist, Lucy and how well she handles herself as the tale progresses on.

She is the most calm and level-headed of her family and though very matter-of-fact about the somewhat fanciful idea of wolves living in the walls, she comes up with the most realistic solutions to their problems. Review continues.

front and back cover

While her parents and her brother concoct the silliest courses of action, from living in the Arctic to moving to outer space (with those squoozles and things), Lucy takes charge and makes simple, effective decisions based on her own wants. She never overreacts and she never shies away from danger.

The Wolves in the Walls - review

For children reading this book, Lucy is a wonderful example of what it means to face one’s fears. Without becoming overly fearful or rash, she does what she can within her own capabilities and leads her family to an eventual triumph over the house-stealing wolves.

Illustrator Dave McKean implements many different media in his artwork to create a haunting and creepy atmosphere for the reader. With a mixture of photography, computer-generated imagery, and traditional drawing and sketching, the story is portrayed in a light of reality and fantasy blurring that thin line that tries to keep them separate. This artwork gives the story that great element of spookiness.

Though the masterful of illustrations of McKean would be most responsible for scaring younger children (and maybe some easily frightened adults like me) away from this book, the story is not all that scary. Above all else, The Wolves in the Walls is a tale of a young girl’s fears becoming reality and her overcoming them with only her bravery, the support of her family and her love for a very special little pig puppet.

Read more of Natasha's reviews.

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