The Big Bad Wolf in My House – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Sometimes I review books because I’m struck by their beauty, their language, or their humor. Other times I review a book because it’s an important issue or an exploration of a topic that isn’t often seen in picture book form. This is one of those books. But it is also beautifully illustrated and written.

The cover struck me immediately. A wolf and a little girl sit on opposite sides of a table. Neither looks happy. A petal has fallen from the single sagging rose on the table. The light that illuminates them feels like a spotlight. And the title lets us know that the story is going to be in first person from the child’s point of view. Are you ready to turn the page, to see where this story goes?

Text ©Valérie Fontaine Illustration ©Nathalie Dion

He didn’t need to huff, or puff

or blow the house down…

The big bad wolf just walked in the door.

This wolf walks on two legs. He carries a rose. And he is welcomed inside.

Text ©Valérie Fontaine Illustration ©Nathalie Dion

He batted his eyelashes and purred like a pussycat

in front of my mother.

But he looked at me with cold eyes and sharp teeth.

The honeymoon was sour, like lemons.

The mother is fooled, but the child is not. Yes, this is a book about domestic violence. And how abuse starts, gradually gets worse, and affects the mother and child day and night.

The child makes herself “quiet as a lamb.” She tidies up, but “that wolf did not tidy up anything.

He even threw his plate on the floor because the pasta was cold…”

The child knows this is wrong, because if someone makes a mess at school, they must apologize, even if it’s an accident. But the child knows that it was not an accident.

Things grow more dire. The wolf howls at her mother, and he even leaves bruise marks from his fingers on the child’s arm. While the wolf and mother fight, the child hides from the violence under her covers, knowing that it won’t protect her “any more than a pile of straw.”

The wood of her bedroom door also doesn’t stop him from coming into her room.

And she builds “a fort made of bricks” around her heart.

When the mother gives her a suitcase and five minutes to pack, it’s clear they’re leaving the wolf behind. They end up in a safe house with other women and children and “no wolves.”

The ending is quite poignant, and realistic. The child hears her mother crying, but at least they will finally have a good sleep. “The big bad wolf can huff and puff all he wants, but this house will not fall down.” There is a certain strength in that bold statement, and an element of relief.

This author, illustrator, and publisher are brave to put such a book out in the world right now, a world of increasing censorship, where some believe we should protect children from these kinds of stories, that we should let children lead naive and happy lives. But we can protect all children from reality. And they are knowing and empathetic human beings. They see things in this world and experience things that may not be all sunshine and roses. It’s important to give them the tools to understand and talk about tough topics, and in doing so make them feel less scary, less forbidden to discuss.

This book is for the child who’s suffering from any kind of violence, who needs to feel seen and understood, AND it’s for the child who has never experienced domestic violence, who may benefit from understanding and developing empathy for others whose lives may not be so perfect. In other words, it’s for both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between.

Activities:

Learn more about talking with your child about domestic violence from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Organize a fundraiser (like a bake sale) for a local program that works to end domestic violence. National organizations like Lifewire are also open to donations.

Learn how to talk to your kids about violence: information from the Child Development Institute.

Title: The Big Bad Wolf in My House

Author: Valérie Fontaine

Illustrator: Nathalie Dion

Translator: Shelley Tanaka

Publisher: Groundwood Books, English (2021), French (2020)

Ages: Pre-K through middle school

Theme: domestic violence

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

15 thoughts on “The Big Bad Wolf in My House – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Mona Voelkel says:

    Jilane, your review is so beautifully written that it can mentor me as I write my own reviews! I agree that we need books like this because, unfortunately, children can be victims and observers of violence and this book is a sensitive take on a difficult subject. I will have to get this book as I am drawn to how the author has told this story. Her language has pulled me in. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Thank you, Mona, for your kind words. I appreciate it! It is sad that we need books like these, but I’m glad we have authors who are willing to take on these topics and write about them well. I hope you can find a copy of the book.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    Such a daring book, but I love the theme. I can see this book used by therapists/professionals who are trying to help a child work through issues. Kids aren’t dumb — they see what goes on behind closed doors. They understand much more than we give them credit for. And, they may also be able to help a friend.

  3. Sue Heavenrich says:

    This is indeed a brave book – and brava for Valerie for writing it. We do need books about tough topics.

  4. Betsy Russakoff says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful review of “The Big Bad Wolf in My House.” Such an important & challenging topic approached in an accessible way — with beauty, empathy, & honesty.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      It’s a neglected and important topic for the picture book audience. I hope this book reaches a wide audience, especially those who will benefit from it most. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Ste J says:

    I think it’s never to young to teach a child, as long as it is not to heavy handed. A subtle theme allowing the child to make the connection is a good thing. It will stand children in good stead. It’s great to see publishers willing to support such endeavours.

Leave a Reply to Betsy Russakoff Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.