Wolves have featured as story-characters since Antiquity. They have been cast as violent and savage, or sometimes as devious or predatory, but almost always as synonymous with danger, or perhaps evil. Some cultures equated wolves with the devil, others drew parallels with man’s–and especially men’s–animalistic nature.
More recently in Anglophone children’s books the wolf appears in a more playful, sometimes even benign, role. However, in other western European children’s literature the adherence to the fearsome wolf prevails to a greater extent, typically in French children’s books. Wolfy is by a French author/illustrator and exemplifies the dualism of the many portrayals of the wolf. Wolfy is young and orphaned, but as well as attributing a friendly nature to him, Solotareff acknowledges his potential for violence.
He is befriended by Tom, a rabbit, who gives him a name and teaches him to fish and to play. But the inner wolf will out, and one day Wolfy scares Tom so badly that he retreats to his burrow and refuses to associate with Wolfy. Eventually, lonely Wolfy guarantees that he will never harm Tom, and the two set off on a fishing trip.
Wolfy is a story about friendship between very different species (read races), trust, and overcoming fear, but like wolfish nature, there are undercurrents. The bunnyish Tom has far more visible human attributes than Wolfy; he is dressed –in a familiar blue jacket– and lives in a furnished burrow. Wolfy is unclothed and where he lives is not clear, but presumably in the wild, and the wildness of his nature is acknowledged in the games played by the two.
Solotareff’s line is bold and black and his palette comprises bright primary colours. This, and the generous page size, make this a good one for showing and reading in a group setting.
And what about the moving Wolfy on the front cover – what is he pursuing? – contrasting with his solid, fatherly rear view on the back cover? And red endpapers at the conclusion of the book in contrast with the blue opening endpapers, might tell their own tale!