Friday, September 27, 2013

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Dave McKean (2003)

Another trip to the Gaiman world (the Gaiman islands?), this time to The Wolves in the Walls, a long picture book I first read as a teen librarian many moons ago, and even attempted to book talk to teens at the time.  Wolves has that same sense of odd menace and foreboding that present in - well, every Gaiman book I can think of.  There is the World, where Mom makes strawberry jam, and Dad plays the tuba, and Brother plays videos games, and where Lucy hears wolves scrambling around inside the walls.  And, as all Dads and Moms and Brothers do in the world, they pooh-pooh her fears - except they leave the door open at the end of their pooh-poohs, and you the reader are puzzled and fearful, just like Lucy.  If the wolves are merely figments of Lucy's overactive imagination and fears, then why do Dad, Mom and Brother all end their discounting with "If the wolves come out of the walls, then it's all over... everybody knows that."  Maybe everybody in the real world, but in the Gaiman world, we (like Lucy) are just learning what everybody knows.  The wolves are real, they are living in the walls, they do come out, and - it may be over (I won't spoil).

When the wolves do come out, the family and "huddled at the bottom of the garden."  I want to have a "bottom of the garden" to do things in.  Huddle, and sit and think, and sleep, and read a book, and drink a glass of wine.   English people in books always seem to have a "bottom of the garden."  If you Google "bottom of the garden,"  fairies pop up - so magical things happen there.

I'm not a huge fan of Dave McKean's artwork, but it pairs perfectly with the groovy creepy writing style.


The Wolves in the WallsThe Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To get to groovy creepy Gaiman world where The Wolves in the Walls, and most of his other books, seem to take place, it's similar to going to Never Never Land - take the second star to the right, but in this case straight on until midnight.  Hovering over every Gaiman book I've read is  that sense of the unearthly and macabre - the humor is dark, the palette is darker, the plot flavored with henbane and eye of newt.  In the Real World, no one has heard about wolves living in the walls, and when our little protagonist tells her Dad and Mum and Brother about them, they - like all grown ups (or nearly grown ups) discount her fears and try to comfort her.  But they also, every one of them, leave the door wide open with this disclaimer: "For you know what they say... if the wolves come out of the walls, then it's all over... everybody knows that."  Everybody in the Real World doesn't know that, but in Gaiman's world, second start to the right, weird things happen regularly to normal, everyday people.  Suffice it to say, wolves do indeed inhabit the walls, and what happens when they come out is how storytelling began among cavemen a thousand thousand years ago.   Dave McKean's illustrations, while not my favorite in any way, do make a perfect pairing to this creepy kooky story.  It's Good Night Moon for Wednesday Addams.


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