Wolf Story - Illustrated Edition

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What a gem!
Wolf Story cover page, part of The New York Review Children's Collection

What a find!

What a smashing read-aloud!

If you take up this 1947 book about a father, his smart five-year old son Michael and Michael's best friend Stefan ... well, you won't be able to put it down.

This is an example of a book that simply yearns to be read aloud.

It works really well as a children's book for silent reading, but it truly sparkles as a read-aloud!

This fabulous addition to the New York Review Children's Collection simply scores on all fronts.

Here we have an enthralling story, within a witty yarn and both of them progress hand in hand until a charming conclusion.


Anything Can Happen In A Story

     A boy's story is the best that is ever told. 
     Charles Dickens 

"Once upon a time a man was putting his boy to bed and the boy asked for a story."

The man tries to save himself by retelling Goldilocks, but, of course, this attempt is rejected immediately by his son.

"No, no," said the boy. "A new story."

Once again the father fails in his attempts to conjure up a story with harmless animals, because his persistent little son rejects all attempts to keep the fierce wolf out ... and a Wolf Story it is.


"All right," the father gives in. 
"A terribly fierce wolf with red eyes and teeth as long and sharp as butcher knives."
"Mmmmmmm," says the boy, resting his cheek on his pillow.
"I suppose you like that about the butcher knives."
"I love it," says the boy. ‘Go on.’

What follows is a double strand of complementing stories that intertwine all the way over the course of several days.
A scanned page from Wolf Story by William McCleery, illustrated by Warren Chappel

One moment we are reading about Michael, Stefan and Michael's dad (how they go together to Fort Tryon Park, swim at Jones Beach, wait until the car is fixed in the garage...) and the other moment we are reading about cunning wolf Waldo and his plans to capture Rainbow the hen, while trying to avoid discovery by the hen's owners - the Tractorwheel family.

The book is a rambuctious read-aloud that will turn on  all the synapses in children's brains, as they try follow the lifelike story-in-a-story. And it wasn't only my kids who howled with laughter while listening to the book.

In addition to laughing, my kids were enthralled with the realistic story-telling and the matter-of-fact tone that made it very accessible. In fact, the book was so captivating that we read it in two days .. with my twins positively enthralled all throughout.

The humor is so lightweight and pervasive making the Wolf Story one of the top read-alouds in our library.

"I don't want to make it too scary," said Michael's father.
"Yes!" cried the boys. "Make it too scary! Horribly, horribly scary."
"Time out," said Michael's father. "My voice is tired."
"Here," said Stefan, and handed him a fruit drop.

The book's author William McCleery was a Broadway playwright, which goes a long way to explaining why this book reads aloud so well.

Treat your kids and yourself to a couple of nights of much needed family warmth and worldly humor.

They simply don't write books like this any more.



Wolf Story is available from bookstores in the US, Canada and UK:



  • Author: William McCleery 
  • Illustrator:  Warren Chappell 
  • Pages: 88 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Children's Collection
  • ISBN-13: 9781590175897
  • Source: Purchased by Read Aloud Dad
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8 comments:

  1. I haven't read this one, but others in the New York Review Children's Collection are also good - do try The Magic Pudding

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  2. Hi Zoe!

    Yep, that is a great tip for parents.

    The New York Review Children's Collection is a fabulous set of children's books that went out of print and were then re-released by the great people at @NYRBclassics .

    We also read The Magic Pudding (http://amzn.to/Vcle94) - it is a smashing read-aloud as well with great illustrations. The Magic Pudding has such a rich vocabulary - it is incredible. maybe it was a bit over the head of my 5-year olds - but they enjoyed it anyhow.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Read Aloud Dad

    Re: @3f1731fedd538bb343d384e211ffcf95:disqus

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  3. Oooh! Looks great! Will try it with my son when we finish up Percy Jackson books!

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  4. Wow! I hope you and your son are having a blast with the Percy Jackson series!

    (We have PJ in our home library - waiting for the day when my twins are old enough.)

    I do hope you will enjoy Wolf Story with your son - it is a really fun read aloud!

    Read Aloud Dad

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  5. Just finished this (in one go) with my 3 year old, who has since asked for it every day. Fantastic book for little girls as well! It was also featured in the Read Aloud Handbook.

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  6. Hi Howie!

    So glad that you and your three-year old enjoyed it so much :-)

    Wolf Story brings a smile to my face every time I see that cover page!


    Plus, when you mentioned that your kid asked for it every day - that smile turned into a big grin! That's the book, indeed!

    Your point is great - the book is indeed fab for little girls, my five-year old daughter adored it.

    Would you believe it - I completely forgot that it was featured in The Read-Aloud Handbook (http://amzn.to/yqCXv8)! Thanks for the reminder, I must re-read what Jim Trelease said about Wolf Story.

    Now I just have to find The Read-Aloud Handbook somewhere in our house... That's not going to be an easy task!



    Thanks so much for your comment!


    Read Aloud Dad


    Re: @986ec48776624298507cd42fa8b0be74:disqus

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  7. hmmm I may have been mistaken, he definitely includes it on his list of favourite kindergarten novels in my (sixth) edition, but I'm not sure if there is a little review on it. Your blog is great by the way. I grew up in the UK at a time when it wasn't easy to get books written on the other side of the Atlantic (unless they were HUGE like Charlotte's Web). So glad I've got a second chance to read these with my child :)

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  8. You are definitely not mistaken sir!


    Trelease does include it on his list of favorite kindergarten novels, as you rightly said.


    Alas there is no review, and I suspect that it is why I did not remember him mentioning Wolf Story.


    Isn't it nice to live at a time when children's books from around the world are increasingly available?


    Oh, if we only had more time to read... :-)


    Read Aloud Dad


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