When a wolf swallows a mouse, the mouse thinks it is the end, until he meets a duck inside the wolf’s dark belly. They dine together and mouse realises that life inside the wolf is not so bad. They no longer have forest fears, until a hunter tries to shoot the wolf and the wolf becomes trapped. Fearing their safe existence is threatened, they charge out of the wolf to save the situation. The wolf offers them a favour for saving his life, and the reader is not surprised to find out what favour is asked!
I love the work of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Their humour is authentic and so original. This tale has many elements of the traditional wolf style fairy tale, but with many twists. The language used is wonderful; mixing in new words young listeners would not have heard of before but are typical of the medieval tale where they may be found. This will make this book a tremendous read aloud for a variety of ages.
Placement of both written text and visuals on the page are such that the viewer has a front angle viewing of the action. The close up of the charge on the hunter changes the pace, and with just one word on this double page spread, the viewing will take longer than the reading. The mix of mostly earthy colours and the collaged illustrations is typical of Klassen’s creations.
There are three distinct postmodern tendencies in The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse.
Non-traditional use of plot, character and setting are at the forefront. The characters, typical of fairy tales, are used in an unconventional way, as we have grown to expect of these two creators. The setting, appearing as the forest, is really the inside of the wolf as it is central to the plot.
Traditional forms are mocked through the use, at times repeated, of traditional language, such as ‘woe’, ‘belly of the beast’, and ‘evil and wraiths’. This language appears in the dialogue mostly, reaffirming the link to traditional tales.
Although there is no distinct link with specific traditional tales, the use of the wolf, hunter, duck and mouse are intertextual in that they are commonly found in traditional fairy tales.
Classroom Activity Ideas
- After multiple readings, list elements found in traditional fairy tales, such as common language, characters, and behaviours such as charging for defense.
- How has the traditional form of fairytales been changed in this narrative? Do you think it is based on traditional tales?
- Design a meal for the duck and mouse to enjoy. How might they get the ingredients inside the wolf?
- Write a postcard from the duck and/or the mouse to their families retelling the story. Illustrate the postcard with a picture of your favourite part of the story.
Teacher Notes can be downloaded from this link, from Walker Books. Note, this link automatically downloads a PDF file.
Many thanks to Walker Books for supplying this book for review.