The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Big Bad Wolf and Other Wolves in Folklore - May 2013

Selected and annotated by Anna Holland

Alley, Zoe. B. There’s a Wolf at the Door. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2008. 34p. Gr. 3-5.
A graphic novel-styled compilation of five well-known folktales, all starring the same despicable wolf: “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” and “The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids.” Those familiar with their fairy tales will enjoy Alley’s take, with goofy riffs, plot alterations, and comic puns.

Bedard, Michael. The Wolf of Gubbio. Stoddart, 2001. 24p. 5-9 yrs.
St. Francis of Assisi, called the Poverello or “the poor one,” is said to understand the language of birds and beasts. When he arrives in the small town of Gubbio and learns of the ferocious wolf that plagues the town’s inhabitants, he sets out to meet the wolf and is followed by a small child who observes the wonders of the Poverello’s legendary encounter.

Bently, Peter. The Great Sheep Shenanigans. Anderson/Lerner, 2012. 28p. 5-8 yrs.
Lou Pine is a wily wolf with a hankering for lamb supper, but he lacks the necessary stealth and muscle to dodge the watch of the unbelievably buff Rambo the Ram. Thus begins a comical series of attempts to create sheep disguises, such as coating himself in cotton candy, which unsurprisingly end in failure. Lou Pine has slightly more success, however, disguising himself as Red Riding Hood and getting her gran to knit him a sheep sweater. But Lou Pine isn’t the only sly character in this silly retelling of an old tale.   

Egielski, Richard. Saint Francis and the Wolf. Geringer/HarperCollins, 2005. 40p. 4-9 yrs.
An overly large and vicious wolf plagues the rich and busy city of Gubbio in this version of the legend of Saint Francis. The Contessa di Gubbio will see to it that the wolf is killed, saying to Saint Francis’ objective pleas, “Good friar, do you expect the wolf to sit down and listen to your sermon?” But when the city’s bravest knight, an army, and a war machine fail to eradicate the wolf, the Contessa finally agrees to let the friar talk peace with the beastly wolf.

Gravett, Emily. Wolf Won’t Bite! Simon, 2012. 28p. 4-6 yrs.
The three little pigs capture a wild wolf for their extraordinary circus act in this cutesy reimagining of folkloric characters. The pigs make a pompous production of showing off their submissive wolf, undergoing great feats like dressing him in a bow and riding him like a horse to demonstrate that he won’t bite. But is the patient wolf truly docile, or simply waiting for a prime chance to make his move? 

Hennessy, B. G.. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Simon, 2006. 40p. 5-8 yrs.
Humorous illustrations add a touch of comic relief to this whimsical retelling about a bored shepherd boy looking to get a rise out of the good townsfolk. While staying true to the age-old tale, this version offers an interesting blend of anachronism, detail, and repetition to engage readers.   

Kasza, Keiko. The Wolf’s Chicken Stew. Putnam, 1987. 27p. 3-5 yrs.
A wolf with an insatiable appetite eyes a chicken and decides he will plump her up by cooking doughnuts, a hundred scrumptious pancakes, and one hefty cake. The wolf leaves these gifts on the chicken’s doorstep, then goes home to boil the water for his chicken stew. But the naïve wolf is in for a surprise when Mrs. Chicken opens the door to reveal a flock of hungry children. This old tale with a revamped plot for young readers features a sly—but ultimately good—wolf protagonist.

Levine, Gail Carson. Betsy Who Cried Wolf. HarperCollins, 2002. 36p. 5-8 yrs.
Having graduated from shepherd school at the age of eight and sworn a solemn oath to never cry “wolf!” needlessly, Betsy is determined to become the best shepherd in the history of Bray Valley. But Zimmo, the half-starved wolf, devises a clever plan to earn himself a meal by revealing himself and subsequently hiding from the villagers who come running. Betsy’s reputation is dashed, and when Zimmo appears again, this time no one answers her cry for help. 

Noves, Deborah. When I Met the Wolf Girls. Houghton, 2007. 40p. Gr. 3-5.
Based on the true story of Amala and Kamala, feral girls found in a cave in India in 1920 raised with wolves. Though certainly not sinister, the two wild girls in this picture book share the same outsider, feared status as their wolf mother. Told from the perspective of Bulu, a fictional narrator, this is the story of the legendary wolf girls and their adoption into society. Includes author’s note and source notes.

Prokofiev, Sergeevich. Peter and the Wolf. Viking, 1982. 32p. K-3.
Warned never to wander past the safety of the gate, young Peter is lured into the meadow by his animal friends. Caught and led back home by his grandfather, Peter watches as a wolf corners his friends. Can Peter capture the wolf before it’s too late? Composer Sergei Prokofiev’s folkloric Russian tale of bravery translated and richly re-illustrated in picture book format.

Santangelo, Colony Elliott, ad. Brother Wolf of Gubbio: A Legend of Saint Francis. Handprint, 2000. 34p. 5-8 yrs.
In this retelling of an Italian legend, a hungry wolf terrorizes the small mountain village of Gubbio. The menacing wolf eats first the lambs, chickens, and goats that the townsfolk depend upon for survival until the children are afraid to play outside and the piazza is silent on market day. Hatred and fear brew in the village until the baker seeks the aid of a holy man named Francis from nearby Assisi who understands both the wolf and the villagers and mediates peace.

Spirin, Gennady, ad. The Tale of the Firebird. Philomel, 2002. 32p. 6-10 yrs.
This beautifully adapted fusion of Russian fairy tales features a magical gray wolf guide, proving that not all folkloric wolves are menacing. When a firebird is caught stealing the Tsar’s golden apples, his sons embark on a quest to catch the dazzling bird. The youngest, Ivan-Tsarevitch, meets a large gray wolf that offers his help in return for a previous kindness. With the wolf as a companion and an aid, Ivan-Tsarevitch faces the wicked Baba Yaga and Koshchei the Immortal, saves an enchanting princess, and finds the firebird.  

Young, Ed. Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. Philomel, 1989. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
Three girls are tricked into opening the door for a cunning wolf disguised as Lon Po Po, their grandmother, when their mother is away. This award-winning picture book variation on the classic Red Riding Hood tale is complete with a dark and sinister wolf and an equally clever older sister who leads her sisters to safety with an imaginative trick of her own.