Hennessy, B. G. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Setting: Deliberately timeless rural town
Point of View: 3rd person
Theme: boys, shepherds, wolves, sheep, lies, lying, boredom, friendship, fables, folklore, morals, humor
Literary Quality: This retelling of an old fable incorporates humor and a kid sensibility into both the words and illustrations. The shepherd’s dilemma is that he is “SO bored,” and on the very next page when he decides that he is “the most bored boy in the world,” readers get a close-up view of the boy picking his nose as he kicks up his dirty bare feet. These modern touches are balanced by traditional oral storytelling elements: the boy’s tale changes just a little bit each time (from one to three wolves), and repeating phrases such as, “Munch, munch, munch. Baaaaaaaaaaaaa,” are woven throughout the story, delightfully changing to a startling “Lunch, lunch, lunch! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR,” when wolves actually arrive on the scene. The watercolor and gouache illustrations play with the balance of modern and ancient: the townspeople consist of folks from what appears to be every era – we see armored knights alongside boys adorned in baseball caps, sticks and rakes next to baseball bats and umbrellas. The pictures bounce us around perspectives, moving in and out and up and down. And while the text suggests the wolves might have devoured the sheep due to the shepherd boy’s negligence, the final, wordless illustration will make readers breathe a sigh of relief and giggle when they see the sheep safe if not entirely sound in the top of the tree behind the clueless shepherd. Lots of white space and a bold playful font complete the pleasant experience of this story.
Audience: I would recommend this picture book for ages 3-8. Great for a read-alone or a read-aloud.
Personal reaction: I adored this retelling of a fable that has the potential to be (in my opinion) a bit dire and a little dry. This story reinvigorates it with humor without detracting from the moral, striking the perfect balance of silliness and tradition.