Name of Book: Wolf in the Snow
Author: Matthew Cordell
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, NY
Audience: Ages 3 – 7
Summary: A red-hooded little girl finds an abandoned wolf pup on her way home from school in the snow. She abandons her destination in order to make sure the pup finds his family again. In spite of her fear, she reunites him with his mother. However, night is falling and her long trek has left her exhausted. When she collapses in the snow, the wolfpack returns the favor by surrounding her and alerting her parents to her location. With their help, the parents find her and the family returns to the warm comfort of their home.
Literary elements at work in the story:Cordell tells this story nearly wordlessly, using simple pen and watercolor designs. He manages to make the human forms very simple and almost cartoonish, but capable of great expression, while most of the wolf drawings are more realistic. His skill with expressions can be seen throughout, but the scene in which the girl and the mother wolf come face to face is a great example. The terror in the girl’s eyes, the impatience of the wolf pup to be back with his mother, and the calm but wary expression in the mother wolf’s eyes demonstrate the tension of this story without the use of a single word.
Wide open prairie scenes, the falling snow, and the fading daylight give a sense of distance and urgency through the story, giving a sense of time passing. Color is muted, except for the snowsuits on the girl and her parents. This also gives you a sense of her “otherness” in the wilderness scenes. These cold, wide, bleak prairie scenes contrast with the cozy scenes of home at the beginning and end of the book, highlighted by a blazing fire, cups of coffee, and the family and their dog gathered on a warm rug.
A sense of family (both human and canine) is reinforced through the “family photos” hidden under the book jacket. This, in fact, is the only picture where you can see the girl without her red hood.
In contrast to other tales of wolves and little red-hooded girls, this story gives a message of mutual respect and care. The main character is strong, brave, and caring, but also vulnerable and able to receive care. In the end, it turns the fairy tale where nature Is the enemy into a parable of caring for nature and the way that nature can respond.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Strong female characters fill the story. The main character is a strong and brave girl, who doesn’t hesitate to do the right thing for the little wolf pup, even at risk to herself. The mother human and wolf are also the ones who come to find their children and bring them home.
Theological Conversation Partners: While this book is not directly religious, it is filled with several themes that connect with faith and scripture. First, the call to care for others is shown most clearly by the little girl and the wolf pup. Her compassion is stirred by his need, and his inability to walk in the deep snow. This reminds me of stories of Jesus having compassion on those who were to weak to help themselves, and also of the parable of the Good Samaritan. She, like the Samaritan, helps someone else at a cost to herself.
Another theme that shows up in the book is the idea that we are called to stand up for the weak and make a difference, but that each of us is also sometimes weak and in need of help. This reminds us that none of us is a superhero – every hero of the Bible is also a human being, who is sometimes in need of care.
Faith Talk Questions
- Why do you think the little girl decided to help the wolf pup?
- Which pictures show that she is brave? Which show that she is afraid? Are there pictures that show both at once?
- What do you think she was thinking about when she was lying cold in the woods?
- Would you have made the same choices as the girl, if you were in her shoes? Why or why not?
- Where do you think God was present in this story?
Thanks to Edye Bender, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna and Director of Programs at Faith Presbyterian Church, Indian Land, SC, for writing today’s book review.
Wolf in the Snow by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.