Published by Pavilion, 2017.
This is a book about struggling with your identity, trying to fit in, prejudice and finding your own way.
It begins when a wolf and a sheep fall in love. They marry and have a son who is half wolf, half sheep. They name him Woolf. In appearance and character he is both wolf and sheep. He grows up happy but a little lonely. As he gets older, he ventures further from home. He meets a pack of wolves. Initially they are suspicious of Woolf, unsure of what he is. He assures them that he is a wolf. He makes an excuse for his woolly coat by pretending he’s in disguise, hunting sheep. This impresses the wolves and they let him join them. That night, desperate to fit in, he shears the wool from his body. However, he soon grows tired of trying to hide the wool that is growing back, he doesn’t actually enjoy hunting rabbits, and, most of all, he can’t stand how rude the wolves are about sheep. Later, he encounters a flock of sheep. A similar pattern of events unfolds except that this time he tries to hide any wolfish traits. He slicks down his pointy wolf ears, and curls and whitens his tail. However, following each other around aimlessly soon loses its appeal and he can’t stand how mean the sheep are about wolves. He leaves the flock and returns home.
His parents find him crying and he tells them that he doesn’t belong anywhere; he is neither wolf or sheep. His parents help him to understand that he is something new and special, and that ignoring part of who he is will only lead to sadness.
My biggest reservation with the book is that I think the pun around Woolf’s name is beyond the understanding of its target audience; they can’t spell yet and won’t appreciate the subtleties of the word play. I read the story to my four-year-old niece and she didn’t get the pun. When you read the story aloud (and I imagine this is how most children will access the story), it’s difficult to pronounce Woolf in a manner that is significantly different to wolf and this leads to confusion. In a story about identity where the main character is both wolf and sheep, you don’t want his name to associate him more closely with one animal than another.
Nevertheless, this book has lots to recommend it. Its themes are pertinent to children and handled sensitively. It has a reassuring message about self-acceptance. Relationships with family and friends are depicted positively. It is told with humour, and the illustrations are attractive.
Suitable for children aged 4+
Thank you to Pavilion for sending me this book to review and to Toppsta for organising the giveaway.