Monday, August 31, 2009

What is Lurking Behind the Walls?

The Wolves in the Walls
by Neil Gaiman
Illustrations by Dave McKean
Harper Collins, 2003

The Wolves in the Walls, is a wild story with a level-headed heroine. The premise of the book plays on basic fears (home intrusion, fears of childhood fantasy) and takes the reader on a heart-thumping journey.

Lucy and her trusty pig puppet heard noises coming from inside the walls. While unsuccessfully trying to convince her family that the noises are coming from wolves in the walls, she is also introduced to an apparently well known axiom. A warning, if you were. “If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.” Her family doesn’t take her too seriously, even though Lucy is utterly convinced it is wolves inside the walls. Yet, despite her family’s flippant responses to her worries, there is an imminent sense of danger that they all seem to accept, either openly or subconsciously.

And then, one night, that danger awakens in a horrible way when the wolves finally do come out of the walls. The family flees the house and surrenders their home and possessions to the vicious, wily canines. Even though they are left to sleep in the garden, the entire family is safe, all except for Lucy’s puppet, the one entity that trusted her about the wolves. As her family is suggesting new, and wacky, places to live, Lucy decides she must get her puppet back. Upon stealthily re-entering the house and seeing the disrespectful actions of the four-legged fiends, Lucy resolves herself and convinces her family to take back what is theirs. Following is a brave conquest and a surprise twist ending.

This book is yet another amazing creation from author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean. Gaiman’s writing is skillful and flows well, despite the twisted tale he is weaving. McKean’s illustrations compliment the story perfectly. His mixed media artwork emphasizes the chaotic plotline of this book. On one page you might see a dynamic ink drawing, while the next is a mixed-material collage. This type of artistic style suits the characters and the storyline.

The main character in this story reminds me of some of the Greek heroes. Lucy is not a hero in this story because she is superhuman or is untouched by fear. Her heroism lies in the fact that she experiences fear, terror even, yet steadfastly rises above it. Just as I’m sure Theseus was terrified when he went to slay the Minotaur, Lucy was when she went to win back her home from the wolves. Taking the reigns of her family and acknowledging the importance of allegiance to ones home and ones family, Lucy swallows her fear and accepts the daunting task of winning her stomping grounds back, as well as her puppet.

This story is great, not only for its wonderful writing and ferocious illustrations, but also because it teaches a few important lessons. Children learn that they can be heroes and leaders in their own family units. It was Lucy who first noticed, believed in, and eventually defeated the wolves. This can show children that they too can take active roles in their own lives and in their own safety. Adults can learn to take stock in what their children say. Sometimes we are so swift to dismiss things that children say just because it seems like nonsense or we can’t make hide nor hair of it. Perhaps we need to listen more intently when little mouths speak. I would recommend this book as a read-aloud or read together book with adults and young readers or pre-readers.


  1. Great Review Lindz! I see your writes block went away and you got your muse! :) Your a talented woman! I can't wait to see you in 24 days :)

  2. Thanks BBB! I can't wait to see you for fun filled nights of cactus stories and DB block parties!