|Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr|
|Category: Emerging Readers|
|Reviewer: Anne Thompson|
|Summary: A re-issue of a children's classic from fifty years ago, this witty collection of short stories still feels fresh and enjoyable for today's readers. With added extras including author facts, a quiz, background information and even a recipe this charming book deserves to be a hit with a new audience of children.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: July 2015|
Polly opens the door one day to find a large black wolf standing on the doorstep. With no preamble whatsoever, not even a cursory hello, the wolf informs Polly that he intends to eat her up. Incredibly Polly invites the wolf into her home and even into the kitchen! What can she be thinking of? Well, young Polly is clever, resourceful, independent and charming. The wolf is a wolf of very little brain. Therefore it is not long before she is able to outwit the wolf and send him packing. This first story is very short but sets the scene for the ongoing battle of wits between Polly and the wolf that will continue for the remaining twelve short stories in this charming and entertaining book.
If I had not known that this book was first published in 1955 I don't think I would have guessed. The language used is not dated in the same way as some other children's literature from this time can be. Polly is also very much a modern day heroine in her attitude. Each of the wolf's plans is linked to a well-known fairy tale or nursery rhyme and in each story he is convinced that this time the plan will work. Unfortunately he has not bargained for Polly's quick witted response to his dastardly plots. For example he plants a bean outside her home convinced that an enormous beanstalk will grow overnight which he can climb up to get into her bedroom. He is crestfallen when Polly assures him that this only works with magic beans obtained by swapping a cow or similar and not bought in the normal way. Silly wolf!
The stories themselves are fun but it is the witty conversations between the wolf and Polly that really make this book special. Despite the title the wolf is not a complete fool, he is well read and has a love of poetry but he is utterly hopeless at thinking his plans through and is completely thrown by Polly's firm and logical arguments. At times it reads a little like a conversation between a sensible parent (Polly) and a wilful child (the wolf). Polly can occasionally be almost too good to be true and the wolf so despairing and sad that the reader develops a split loyalty and may briefly start supporting the wolf. The author originally wrote the stories to help her own daughter conquer her fear of wolves and I think children will find it very reassuring to read about a little person being brave and also to see a traditional storybook baddie being portrayed in this way.
This would work brilliantly as a read aloud for younger children, with one short story per day maybe. I think parents would enjoy it too! It would also be manageable for young readers just starting to read independently and slightly older children may also enjoy thinking up their own plans for fooling the wolf. For maximum enjoyment it would be helpful if the reader or listener was familiar with the traditional tales mentioned in the stories as they could then try and predict what will happen next. The extras at the end of the book including a quiz and an extract from the sequel are an added bonus. This book is part of the re-issue of the Puffin classics range, all with new covers, and this one by Lesley Barnes is, I think, particularly appealing. A really lovely book.
Thank you to the publishers Puffin Books for providing this review copy. There are numerous children's stories about wolves but for one about a wolf with a more caring attitude I would suggest Wolfie by Emma Barnes
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2015.
You can read more book reviews or buy Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr at Amazon.com.
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