Confession: I read Wolf Won’t Bite by Emily Gravett (2011) about a week and a half ago, and have been itching just itching to write this review. Why? Because I found the book horrifying. But, I told myself, maybe I was over-reacting. Maybe, because I’m looking at these books with a very particular mindset, that’s all I could see. I passed the book off to a co-worker. My co-worker only read a few pages before stopping and passing the book back, with a scrunched nose.
So, maybe it’s not just me. In this case, which I don’t always do, I looked to other resources. GoodReads users give it 3.5 stars. I decided not to read those reviews until after I’d written this post, but it seems many of the highest ratings referenced the simplicity of the pictures and the bold text — making it friendly for people who are learning to read. In fact, I was worried about how many reviewers saw this book as “humorous” for reasons you’ll find out about soon enough.
Wolf Won’t Bite is a re-telling of the three little pigs — at least to some extent. The three little pigs, in this case, have captured the wolf and put him in a small cart, like you probably imagine the animal carts from a small traveling circus. Wolf looks properly sad/nervous. The three little pigs, in their exhibitionist glory force the wolf to stand on a stool, which to me immediately re-called one of the infamous Abu Ghraib torture pictures. Afterward the pigs:
- Dress the wolf up in a giant ribbon, fashioned into a bow (dressing him up in women’s clothing to attempt to humiliate him?)
- Ride him like a horse (ehm, rape him? You mean rape him, right?)
- Force him to jump through a hoop (the legal system that’s not going to support him when he claims he was tortured and raped?)
- Lift him off the ground (dominate him)
- Force him to dance a jig
- Reference to minstrel shows?
- Reference to what happens to a person’s feet when they’re hanged?
- Just another way of showing dominance?
- Shoot him from a cannon (because why the hell not?)
- Saw him in half using a magician’s box (because the wolf is just a body and has no right to his body)
- Throw knives at him
Up until this point, the refrain of the story is “wolf won’t bite.” As their final trick the three little pigs stick their heads in the wolf’s mouth. This offers too much (temptation? opportunity to retaliate against torture?) for the wolf, and the wolf tries to bite — and of course the three little pigs run away. There are no real consequences for their actions, and no opportunity to discuss if the wolf only bit because he so likes the taste of little piggies (or so hates the little piggies).
So, that’s the story. I don’t see this as a cautionary tale (as some of those GoodReads reviewers suggested (unless it’s a caution for those of us who are society’s wolves?). I couldn’t see past the blatant torture and exploitation. I couldn’t, in good conscience, recommend this book to the children in my life.