Crunch’s Recommended Reading List for Kids
As part of the Timberwolves’ Read To Achieve program, Crunch is doing his part to encourage students of all ages to read. Working with Hennepin County Medical Center’s Children’s Literacy Program, he’s come up with a list of books that kids will be eager to wolf down. From zany fantasy to stark realism there is something for every taste.
The Three Horrid Little PigsLiz Pichon
Tiger Tales, 2008, $15.95
Ages 4 to 8
Wolf sets the record straight in this fractured fairy tale. It wasn’t he that caused all that house trouble once upon a time; the pigs’ ineptly built structures were destined to fail. When the rude trio invades Wolf’s sturdy home via the chimney (some things never change), he gets out a big, boiling pot of…soup! Wolf, being in construction himself, offers not only a meal, but training in the trades and an invitation for the pigs to join his work crew. Bright, bold colors are perfect for preschoolers, but only older kids will appreciate the connections to the original story. (The paperback edition is due in March, 2010.)
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad PigEugene Trivizas
Aladdin, 1997, $7.99
Ages 5 to 9
A big, bad porcine bully terrorizes a pack of genteel wolf siblings in another fractured fable. The lupine three-some build stronger and stronger houses, but the persistent porker ups the ante every time. What’s the next move after their iron-reinforced, armored-plated fortress topped with razor wire gets blown to smithereens? Maybe the wolves need to approach the problem from a completely different perspective. Delicate, detailed watercolors spin the huff-and-puff classic 180 degrees in this lesson about war and peace and how to make a foe a friend.
The Sheep in Wolf’s ClothingHelen Lester
Houghton Mifflin, 2007, $16.00
Ages 6 to 9
Ewetopia wants to fit in at school, but Ewetensil, Ewecalyptus and Heyewe, members of the sheep girls’ clique, hardly notice her until an invitation to the Woolyones’ Costume Ball provides an opportunity to impress everyone. Ewetopia’s wolf costume is deemed the pinnacle of bad taste, however, until a mystery guest arrives. Who is this party crasher who keeps talking about ram ramen? Can Ewetopia save her classmates or will she become the next ingredient in the stranger’s ewe stew? Illustrations are geared for the early-to-bed set; hilarious word play will entertain the stay-up-late crowd, including adults.
Bad Boys Get HenpeckedMargie Palatini
HarperCollins, 2009, $17.99
Ages 4 to 7
Willy and Wally Wolf, the fairy tale world’s famously famished scalawags have a taste for a finger-lickin’ snack. What better way to pick up fresh takeout than to be disguised as a pair of feathered handymen, the Lupino Brothers, and introduce themselves to Mrs. Hen. She agrees to pay them in chicken feed if they’ll tidy up the henhouse and watch her chicks and they slyly agree to work for cheep, but their poultry scheme is not as easy to pull together as they had anticipated. This, the third book in a slapstick series chronicling their hapless shenanigans, is a fabulous read-aloud with perfect-pitch illustrations.
Mr. Wolf’s PancakesJan Fearnley
Tiger Tales, 1999, $6.95
Ages 5 to 9
Remember the rude, unhelpful characters the Little Red Hen encountered when she was looking for help baking bread? Their roles are reprised in this wry, parallel story. Mr. Wolf’s never made pancakes before and he can’t find one denizen of fairytale land to help him read the recipe or make a shopping list. Little Red Riding Hood won’t even loan him her basket to tote groceries home. But guess who shows up when the delectable smell of fresh flapjacks wafts through the neighborhood? What choice does a mild-mannered cook have but to invite the ingrates in for breakfast. (Literally!) Delicious fare for young listeners that like their topsy-turvy tales served with just desserts.
The Lamb Who Came for DinnerSteve Smallman
Tiger Tales, 2006, $15.95
Ages 5 to 8
A hungry wolf wishing that he had some meat to liven up his kettle of vegetable stew can’t believe his luck when a little lamb lost in a snowstorm knocks on his cabin door seeking refuge. When he says “You’re just in time for dinner!” he’s not kidding. But after he thaws her by the fire, stuffs her with carrots and gets rid of her hiccups, he discovers he sees her more as a friend, less as an ingredient. Appetite control has unexpectedly taken on a whole new meaning. How many place settings will he put on the table? Hint: Don’t let the cover illustration fool you, this story supports inter-species coexistence.
Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie TaleLisa Campbell Ernst
Aladdin, 2005, $4.99
In this modern adaptation of the classic, Red wears a hooded sweatshirt and hops on her bike to take muffins and cold lemonade to her granny. A hungry wolf smells the fresh-baked goodies, accosts the heroine midway on her journey and hatches a plan to get to granny’s first. But the frail old lady he’s expecting isn’t there; instead, a feisty, in-your-face, take-charge senior citizen turns the tables. As she stares him down he croaks, “M-m-my, what big eyes you have.” The final outcome involves a new business partnership, with Red making deliveries. Younger kids will enjoy the change of scenery, older kids will like the ironic dialogue, everyone will love the muffins (recipe included).
The Red WolfMargaret Shannon
Houghton Mifflin, 2002, $6.95
To protect his precious daughter Roselupin from what he perceives to be ever-present danger, the king keeps her locked in a tall tower. When a golden box filled with red yarn arrives for her, the king assesses the skeins as safe, but Roselupin is not your average chick with sticks – she knits a ruby red wolf suit for herself, which enables her to escape the confines of the castle. Eventually found at the end of a long red thread, she is brought back home and imprisoned again. This time when she receives a gift of mousy brown yarn she knows exactly what her next clever project will be. The moral? When freedom is the ultimate goal, ingenuity is unlimited.
Scholastic, 1999, $16.95
Ages 4 to 8
A hungry wolf is stunned to discover that the barnyard animals he’s identified as his imminent dinner aren’t frightened by his threats – they’re all engrossed in reading! Surprised that animals can learn to read, he sets off on his own quest to conquer the written word and join the educated bunch at the farm. Persistent in the face of all odds – he attends classes, visits the library and finally purchases his own book at a bookstore before becoming the read-aloud wiz of his dreams. The mantra “practice makes perfect” provides wise words for all beginning readers, wolf and human alike!
The First DogJan Brett
Voyager Books, 1999, $7.00
Ages 4 to 8
This prehistoric picture book is based on the fact that the modern domestic dog evolved from the ancient Paleowolf thousands of years ago, but its invitation to speculate as to the exact moment when the transformation began is pure, warm-hearted fiction. Set in the Ice Age when giant mammals roamed the globe, it’s the story of a wolf whose keen instincts unwittingly alert Kip, a rambunctious cave boy, to the dangers inherent in the environment of the day. Gorgeous, detailed illustrations and frames of Paleolithic-style cave art suppose that “He followed me home, can I keep him?” is a question that’s been asked since the very earliest of times.
Simon & Schuster, 2006, $16.99
Ages 6 to 10
A curious, though clueless, rabbit is so interested in the book about wolves that he’s checked out of the library that he sticks his nose in it and begins reading on the way home, totally oblivious that the natural history book and his own destiny are on a collision course. Notice that the book the rabbit is reading is identical to the one being reviewed here. The only text on each page is a real wolf fact, but the illustrations are over-the-top, reality-meets-fantasy fun. The look on the rabbit’s face when he finally comprehends that he is part of the lupine food pyramid is priceless, as are the book’s clever end-pages. Be aware that non-gory evidence of a struggle is included, as is an alternate, happily-ever-after, vegetarian ending.
The Eyes of Gray WolfJonathan London
Chronicle Books, 2004, $6.95
Ages 5 to 9
Minimal, poetic text paired with evocative paintings and nearly life-sized portraits showcase one night in the life of a lone wolf whose drive to survive leads him to challenge a wolf pack for what he needs – a mate. Elegant in its simplicity, this gorgeous book for young children includes a map of the wolf’s present and historic range in North America, a list of organizations dedicated to wolf conservation, including website and contact info, and an author’s note that makes the case for the preservation of this majestic animal.
The Wolf: Night HowlerChristian Havard
Charlesbridge, 2006, $6.95
Ages 7 to 11
Packed with beautiful photo-illustrations, this book in the Animal Close-Ups Series provides information for both elementary-aged aficionados and those whose interest is strictly of the upcoming science report variety. Wolf behavior, habitat and life cycle are introduced, as is big, bad wolf lore. The focus is on general information but trivia that will fascinate kids is frequently included. (e.g. Wolves always walk in single file in the snow because walking in each others’ pawprints saves energy.) The book’s layout ensures that there are always more photos than text and meaty captions entice even reluctant readers to extend their reading time.
Wolf Pack of the Winisk RiverPaul Brown
Lobster Press, 2009, $10.95
Ages 12 and up
This amazing chronicle of a wolf in northern Ontario is told in free verse from the animal’s perspective. It reads almost cinematically, as if notes were jotted down on the fly, recording exactly what transpires without getting bogged down with grammar and punctuation. The result strips away any romanticized notions of life in the wild, revealing a reality that ricochets from the brutality of the hunt to the sensuous beauty of the wilderness. The reader isn’t observing the action from a distance, but is right there, experiencing it. That sense of immediacy brings survival of the fittest uniquely into focus, especially when wolves and humans are involved. The story’s emotional intensity makes it an appropriate choice for students in middle school and up, not elementary school readers.