Reviews – Wolves in the Walls

This is a roundup of Wolves in the Walls reviews and news from various sources.

Publishers Weekly reports that Wolves in the Walls was an honorable mention in the 14th annual bookseller “Off-the-Cuff” Awards for most unusual book of the year in 2004.

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From the March 14, 2004 Cleveland Plain Dealer:

…The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 4 through 8) is wildly different from most picture books. Dave McKean’s dark mix of collage, photography and painting, with an occasional pen-and-ink drawing thrown in, is arresting. Adults should pick up this book just to view his work.

Gaiman’s story matches McKean’s art in tone. Little Lucy is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her house. The rest of her family argue that, but they agree “if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” When the wolves finally do burst out, their wild partying drives the family to live in the yard.

Many children will find this scary and strange, or plain weird. Adults might appreciate its sophistication…
–Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy

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From the 1 February Canberra Times:

The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman is well known for his Sandman graphic novels and his recent critically-acclaimed novels such as Coraline. The Wolves in the Walls, a picture book with illustrations by Dave McKean, has several similarities to Coraline, especially when a young girl suspects mysterious events in a cavernous house. In this instance Lucy hears the noises of wolves in the walls as she sleeps, but her parents take no notice until the wolves erupt from the walls. The family is driven out and resort to squatting at the bottom of the garden as the wolves trash the house. Lucy decides the family must regain control, although the conclusion comes with a twist. McKean’s stark collage illustrations admirably complement Gaiman’s incisive and imaginative short text to ensure the whole is imbued with a spirit of delightful comic anxiety.

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From the January 30, 2004 Times Educational Supplement:

…I review for a children’s books website (www.cbuk.info) and I’ve recently read The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. It is wonderful, heartwarming and beautiful to look at. The illustrations (see above) by Dave McKean are eerie and enchanting. The book is about a girl who is scared that the saying “When the wolves come out of the walls it’s all over” will come true. It’s really about a child conquering her nightmares, with appeal for adults…
–Rhian Tracey

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From the December 7, 2003 Sunday Telegraph:

Bringing the unsettling quality of his brilliant Coraline novel to picture books, Neil Gaiman has teamed up with illustrator Dave Mckean to create the unparalleled The Wolves in the Walls (Bloomsbury, pounds 12.99). Lucy hears wolves in the walls “plotting their wolfish plots, hatching their wolfish schemes”. None of her family believes her, all adding the apocalyptic line that if wolves were to come out of the walls “then it’s all over”. Despite the flashes of humour and the clearly nonsensical proposition at the heart of the book, this is deeply scary stuff for only the most robust readers of nine upwards.
–Dinah Hall

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From the December 7, 2003 Independent on Sunday:

…The Wolves in the Wall (Bloomsbury pounds 12.99) is a truly imaginative tale matched by a visual treat of painting, collage and drawing. (Cool dads will notice that it comes from graphic novelist maestro Neil Gaiman and his regular collaborator, artist Dave McKean.) What happens when the wolves come out of the wall, asks Lucy? Why, then it’s all over. Who says so? Well, everybody
–BESS ROMAN

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From the December 6, 2003 Seattle Times:

The library is no doubt the best book deal in town, but it’s nice to own a few treasured volumes destined to be dog-eared after numerous readings. The holiday season is a good time to hunt down these future keepsakes. For starters, take a look at the following possibilities, then do your own browsing:
…”The Wolves in the Walls,” by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by I. Dave McKean (HarperCollins, $16.99, ages 5-8). A spooky story about a girl named Lucy who discovers wolves in the walls (nobody believes her). She and her family go about their business as usual, until the wolves decide to come out…

–Kari Wergeland

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Victoria White calls it “…another clever photographic collage which will
surely terrify children out of their wits…” in her holiday children’s picture book roundup in the 6 December 2003 Irish Times.

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Charles de Lint reported the following review of Wolves in the Walls in the December 2003 Fantasy and Science Fiction:

I’d been looking forward to this book ever since I first heard Gaiman talk about it on a panel at the 2002 World Fantasy Convention. Gaiman, it turns out, is one of those rare writers who can make a work-in-progress sound really fascinating. Usually, listening to that sort of thing makes for more tedium than I care to experience (don’t tell me about the book, write it .and let me read it on my own!), but Gaiman’s brief description of a plucky young girl who realizes that wolves live inside the walls of her parents’ house, and who then goes on to drive the family out so that they have to live at the bottom of the garden, promised to deliver a welcome helping of dark whimsy.

I was disappointed, however, when a galley arrived in my P.O. Box and I realized that The Wolves in the Walls wasn’t so much like Coraline (a short novel with illustrations) as The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish (a children’s picture book). But the disappointment only lasted as long as it took me to get to the third page where Lucy first hears noises in the walls.

What follows is another splendid foray into the dark and strange mind of Gaiman, who, if nothing else, never delivers a story that takes you where you think it will. The prose here is very simple. There’s no age given — probably because the publisher knows that adults will pick up a Gaiman book for themselves as readily as they buy one for their children — but I’d guess it’s in the neighborhood of five and up. You might want to vet the story and pictures for possible nightmare inducing, though kids are far more resilient than we adults think they are.

McKean’s art won’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste — it’s a bit confrontational, rather than typical picture book pretty — but I love the look of it, and I’m sure children will, too.

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From the November 29, 2003 Financial Times:

…The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman (illus Dave McKean, Bloomsbury 12.99) could not be more different. At first glance, it looks as though Gaiman and McKean are out to scare their readers witless, with a story of wolves in the walls of a house, “clawing and gnawing, nibbling and squabbling”, illustrated with sinister pictures using paint, ink, collage and photography. But stay with the book and you will find, like Lucy, the brave heroine of the story, that once confronted, even one’s wildest fears can be overcome. Even so, not perhaps ideal for bedtime reading, but satisfying and original, spiked with a good helping of d
ry humour.

–JILL SLOTOVER

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From the 22 November Guardian:

A scary text is often softened by reassuring pictures: not so in The Wolves in the Walls . Dave McKean’s illustrations range from the frightening to the terrifying as the wolves jump right out of the walls and into Lucy’s house – just as she predicted they would. Neil Gaiman fuses some classic fictional strands as Lucy’s fears are ignored by her family, who put the “hustling noises and bustling noises”, “the clawing and gnawing, nibbling and scrabbling” down to rats, mice or bats. For, as they say, if the wolves come out of the walls, then it is all over. But just as only Lucy can recognise the wolves for what they are, so only she can face them down. She leads the family back inside after nights spent in an eerily moon-lit garden and turns the tables on the wolves. Gaiman doesn’t waste words as he builds up first fear and then a delicious sense of relief achieved by some moments of real humour.

–Julia Eccleshare

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From the November 19, 2003 St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Best known for their comic books and graphic novels for adults, author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean have again turned their attention to children’s literature.
Their “The Wolves in the Walls” (56 pages, HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 4-8) tells the story of Lucy who must drive away the wolves that emerge from the walls of her home.
Gaiman discussed the graphic novella in a recent telephone interview:

Q: Where did you get the idea for “The Wolves in the Walls”?
A: Theft, really. I stole it almost entirely from my daughter, who is now 9 but was 4 when she woke up from a nightmare and informed me that we had wolves in the walls and they had come out. My immediate reaction was, “I can write a book about this.”
We live in an old house, a gothic “Adams Family” sort of thing. There are always scufflings in the night. I thought, “Wolves in the walls, of course!” But it didn’t work.
Then I woke with this phrase: “If the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” That set the tone.

Q: Would you have read a book like this to your daughter?
A: I was looking for books with cool, smart 4-year-old girls, and I didn’t find any. I decided that I’d write some. And that’s where “Wolves” came from and to some extent where “Coraline” came from. Two powerful, cool, sensible girls that I could give to my girls and give to other girls.

Q: What else would have appealed to you as a parent?
A: People without children don’t understand that a favorite book means you won’t just read it once a week but you will read it four times a day for months. You try to write things parents will enjoy reading time and again.
I’m pleased with the language that makes “The Wolves in the Walls” fun to read aloud. There’s nothing worse than trying to read something aloud to a kid when they love it and you hate it.
Q: You mentioned “Coraline” earlier. In both “Coraline” and “The Wolves in the Walls,” the adults are pretty clueless and distracted. Why?
A: They are clueless in different ways. In “Coraline” particularly, I’m setting myself up in that both sets of parents are very much me. I’m always the one that would be writing in my office, typing with my kids coming up and saying, “Why don’t you play with us instead of writing.” “Because if I don’t write we don’t eat so . . . go do something . . . learn to tap dance!”

Q: What about the parents in “Wolves’?
A: In “Wolves,” they don’t think that 4-year-old girls can tell important things. It’s a plea for inter-generational listening.

Q: Why is “Wolves” called a graphic novella instead of a picture book?
A: Picture books are technically 32 pages long. “Wolves” is longer.
Borders and B&N had to know what to call it. HarperCollins took the fact that it is by me and Dave McKean, and it has the occasional four-panel page.
I said, “What are you calling it?”
They said, “A graphic novella.”
I wrote the story that needed to come out. Dave McKean and I have been working together since 1986, so I knew that Dave would do something with it but not quite what. I love being surprised by what he does.

Q: Do the two of you have any other surprises in store for your younger fans?
A: I wrote a film, “A Mirror Mask,” for the Jim Henson Co. that Dave has been directing. Unlike the book, we wrote the film together. I would come up with a scene, and he would tell me if it was financially feasible. Right now, Dave is doing all of the post-production stuff. The movie is about a young circus girl, another smart, intelligent heroine. Because she’s slightly older than Coraline and Lucy, she has a lot more to learn. That should be out next summer, which should be enormously fun.

–Sue Bradford Edwards

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From the 9 November 2003 London Sunday Times:

This spectacular book, with its stylish blend of photography, paint, collage and drawing does not look like most children’s picture books. It bypasses the cosy, simplified cliches of child appeal, which makes it absolutely intriguing for youngsters. It is atmospheric, sinister, scary and funny, approaching childhood terrors by walking right into the stuff of nightmares, working up the suspense, then making the horrors comical. At the same time, it shows how a timid girl becomes braver and more resourceful than adults. The story is based on the saying “When the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” Lucy, the young heroine, warns her parents (who have a convincing contemporary glamour) that there are wolves, in the walls, but they are rationally dismissive until the animals leap forth one night. The family has to resort to the bottom of the garden to consider remote places to live instead, but Lucy leads them to turn the tables on the wolves. Children will probably experience a frisson of fright at first, but each rereading will make them more courageous. The author and illustrator, who made their reputations in graphic novels, are no strangers to working on our fears; they know that laughter is our best weapon against them. This is a book for cool kids who will grow up to be fearless (Bloomsbury Pounds 12.99).

–Nicolette Jones

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Janet McConnaughey included Wolves in the Walls in a roundup of recently released children’s books on October 25th in the Daily Hampshire Gazette:

…One of the funniest is ”The Wolves in the Wall” (HarperCollins, $16.99), a fantasy picture book by Neil Gaiman, creator of the literate ”Sandman” comics and of novels for adults.

Illustrated by Dave McKean, ”Wolves” is about Lucy, who can’t convince her parents or brother that wolves are lurking in the walls of her house.

”’It’s bats, I know it is!’ said her brother, happily. ‘I shall ensure that I sleep with my neck exposed tonight, in case one of them is a vampire bat. Then, if it bites me I shall be able to fly and sleep in a coffin, and never have to go to school in the daytime again.”’

Then, with ”a howling and a yowling, a bumping and a thumping,” the wolves emerge. The family runs.

But enterprising Lucy comes up with plans to rescue her beloved pig puppet and return to her house – though, what with the wolves’ tendency to get into the homemade strawberry jam, the house is a bit of a mess.

It’s recommended for ages 7 and up, which makes sense partly because of long words and complex sentences, and partly because small readers might find it scary rather than funny.

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This review of Wolves in the Walls was from a children’s Halloween roundup repo

rted by Jean Westmoore in the October 20th Buffalo News:

Wolves in the Wall by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean, HarperCollins, $16.99. Ages 5 to 8.
Gaiman wrote one of the most disturbing novels ever aimed at young readers in “Coraline”; this very eerie picture book is about a young girl and her family forced to flee their home by wolves within the walls. Gaiman knows what scary things inhabit our thoughts and our imaginations and has a spooky gift for creating something real from the imagined. The haunting illustrations using photos and collage are by an artist who does graphic novels and production design on the Harry Potter films.

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Jeri Fischer Krentz reported the following Wolves in the Walls review in the October 12th Charlotte Observer

While her mother is making homemade jam, her father is playing the tuba and her brother is playing video games, Lucy hears noises coming from inside the walls of her house.

No one in her family believes her, but Lucy’s convinced that the “clawing and gnawing, nibbling and squabbling” is coming from wolves.

Pretty creepy stuff. Then the noise in the walls grows louder — and in the middle of the night, the wolves come out. The family flees into the dark back yard, where they see the animals watching television, eating food from the pantry and “dancing wolfish dances.”

Gaiman presents this dark, 56-page picture book as an illustrated short story, or graphic novella.

It’s funny in parts and certainly worth reading, but will appeal mostly to adults and sophisticated kids.

Dave McKean, the artist for Gaiman’s New York Times best-seller “Coraline,” provides collage illustrations of Lucy and her family, along with pen and ink drawings of toothy wolves with yellow eyes.

(Gaiman will be discussing his works Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the Neighborhood Theatre, as part of the public library’s Novello Festival of Reading. The event is sold out.)

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Gretchen Heber reported the following Wolves in the Walls review in the October 12th Austin American Statesman:

Spectacularly intriguing illustrations star in this delightfully strange tale. Lucy is sure she hears wolves in the walls of her family’s big old house, but no one believes her. But one day, Lucy is proved right, and havoc reigns. For preschoolers and up.

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Kim Boatman reported the following Wolves in the Walls review in the October 12th San Jose Mercury News:

There are times when childhood is the stuff of nightmares. And then there are times when it just seems that way.

Seeing my children get the creepy-crawlies over the least little unexpected noise brings back the years I shivered in my bed, convinced any unexpected light outside heralded the arrival of aliens. We were doomed, I tell you, doomed. And all I could do was quiver and quake, victim of an overactive imagination and a child of the glory days of space exploration. By day, I quaffed Tang and dined on space food sticks. By night, I clutched my covers over my head.

Of course, childhood fears make fine fodder for the authors of children’s literature. And this is the season, with Halloween fast approaching, to cut monsters down to size.

Not, mind you, that there’s anything reassuring about Neil Gaiman’s “The Wolves in the Walls” (HarperCollins, 56 pp., $16.99, ages 4-8). Gaiman, author of the deliciously creepy “Coraline,” delivers a darkly terrifying vision of childish nightmares come true.

“The Wolves in the Walls” is a provocative look at how we manage our fears — and how they manage us — served up with graphic novel veteran Dave McKean’s haunting illustrations.

While her family goes about the business of daily life, blissfully unaware, Lucy hears noises in the walls.

They were hustling noises and bustling noises.
They were crinkling noises and crackling noises.
They were sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises.

And like many a child, Lucy finds no one willing to believe her when she reports that there are wolves in the walls. McKean’s illustration of a wide-eyed Lucy gripping her bed covers captures the paralyzing fear we all feel at one time or another.

In witty and sometimes hilarious fashion, Gaiman moves our tale along. She feels wolf eyes peering through holes in the walls. And still no one listens. Of course, everyone tells her, “If the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.”

And of course, one night the wolves come howling right out of the walls. And Lucy’s family is relegated to the bottom of the garden, where they huddle by the fire and ponder where they’ll live, with the exception of Lucy, who sneaks back into the house to rescue her pig puppet.

Confronting your fears is often a central theme of kids’ literature. And it happens quite literally in Gaiman’s book. Lucy’s family moves into the walls of the house, where they soon spy the wolves partying like there’s no tomorrow, eating her mother’s jam and smearing it on the walls, playing her father’s tuba and beating her brother’s high scores on his video game. So, courage is mustered, along with some broken chair legs.

“Arrgh!” howled the wolves. “The people have come out of the walls!”

“And when the people come out of the walls,” shouted the biggest, fattest wolf, flinging aside the tuba. “It’s all over!”

Not quite. The wolves are gone, but now those noises in the walls sound just like . . . elephants.

Gaiman’s tale is gripping, clever and likely to scare the pants off your average 7-year-old and many a parent, too. And that’s the difficulty with this picture book. It’s just too darn horrifying for younger kids, and of course, any self-respecting fourth-grader wouldn’t be seen with a picture book. But when I read the book aloud at a sleepover that included two 8-year-olds and a mature 6-year-old, they loved it. The book is simply too good to ignore, but it could be nightmare-provoking in the wrong hands. I could see Gaiman’s adult fans buying this book.

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From the October 8, 2003 Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal

No one believes Lucy when she tells her family the sounds she hears in the walls are wolves. They were hustling noises and bustling noises. “They were crinkling noises and crackling noises. They were sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises.” Besides, each member of her family says, “You know what they say … If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.”

When Lucy turns out to be right, her family’s life is turned upside-down. Driven from their home, her parents and brother contemplate where they might go. But Lucy doesn’t want to leave her home. For her, the only solution is to go back – to live in the very walls the wolves once occupied. In that cramped space, listening to the wolves wreak havoc as they smear her mother’s homemade jam on the walls, play her father’s second-best tuba and party like the animals they are, Lucy and her family are pushed beyond their limits. It is then that they find the courage to reclaim their home.

Neil Gaiman’s inventive, original story is eerie, ominous and funny, alternately understated and over-the-top with its humor. Gaiman’s wonderful language and finely paced storytelling are complemented by Dave McKean’s haunting illustrations that heighten each mood with every turn of the page.
–Hollis Rudiger

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From the October 5, 2003 Orange County Register:

Title: “The Wolves in the Walls” by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean
Info: HarperCollins, $16.99 hardcover, 56 pages, ages 7-10
Grade: A
You might like it if: You like offbeat, slightly scary stories.

Lucy hears noises in the walls of her old house. Scratching, gnawing, creeping noises. She’s sure there are wolves living inside the walls. Her mother, father and brother insist that it’s just mice or rats or bats. And besides, they tell Lucy, “You know what they say … . If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.”

Still, Lucy feels eyes watching her from the walls and confides in her toy pig-puppet. One night, when it’s suspiciously too quiet, the wolves really do come out of the walls, and the family flee outdoors to the garden. As they debate whether to move to the Arctic Circle (where walls are made of snow) or the Sahara Desert (where walls are made of tent silks), Lucy realizes that her pig-puppet has been left behind at the mercy of the house-invading wolves. As she finds a way to rescue pig-puppet, she also starts to find a solution to her family’s wolf problem.

Neil Gaiman’s appropriately spooky prose is wonderfully complemented by Dave McKean’s dark, atmospheric artwork, made collage-like with paint, computers, photographs and pen-and-ink drawings. “The Wolves in the Walls” is a blend of mildly scary, wryly amusing story and artwork, perfect reading for a dark night.
–ANN HALEY

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The following Wolves in the Walls review was reported by Steve Bennett of the New York Times News Service, and appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 4th.

Neil Gaiman, creator of the “Sandman” series of graphic novels and author of teen and adult favorites such as “Coraline” and “American Gods,” has created an irresistible young heroine in Lucy, who alerts her clueless family to the “clawing and gnawing, nibbling and squabbling” she hears in her house.

A weird mixture of humor and spookiness, “The Wolves in the Walls” tells the story of a family that flees when wolves come out of the walls — to play. Lucy shows courage in turning the tables on these jam-eating, partying wolves that dress up in the family’s clothes and play video games. One, the “biggest, fattest wolf,” even plays her father’s tuba.

The book is a little long for a 5-year-old, but 7- or 8-year- olds (and their parents) will love it.

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This Wolves in the Walls review was reported in the Newcastle Herald the October 4, 2003.

THERE is a dark, eerie and unsettling quality about the illustrations in this stunning picture book.

Like a bloodcurdling scream that can’t be heard beyond your own nightmare, the impressionistic imagery rates very high on the goosebump-o-meter.

The story’s pretty darn creepy too.

It’s about young girl named Lucy, who is the only one in her family who can hear the wolves in the walls of her house.

Her mother, father and brother can’t hear them, but Lucy can.

From beneath her bed covers at night, she can hear the wolves “clawing and gnawing, nibbling and squabbling”.

When the ferocious-looking wolf pack eventually bursts howling and growling out of the walls, Lucy and her family are forced to flee their house.

From the bottom of the garden, the family looks on helpless as the dreadful intruders make themselves right at home: watching their television, sliding down their bannisters and eating their jam and toast.

But brave, clever Lucy has a plan to beat the wolves at their own devious game.

Author Gaiman sprinkles wry and playful humour between the plot twists.

He finishes with a sight gag that is laugh out-loud funny.

But there’s no shaking the superbly spooky atmosphere conjured by McKean’s mixed-media illustrations.

Impressionistic painted human characters interact strikingly with cartoonishly drawn wolves and photographs of familiar household items like Lucy’s mother’s mountain of jars of blood-red jam.

Tim Burton should definitely direct the animated movie version!

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From the October 3, 2003 Rocky Mountain News:
The Wolves in the Walls
By Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (HarperCollins, $16.95).
Grade: A

Question: When is a children’s picture book not just a children’s book?

Answer: When the book is as appealing for adults as it is for children.

Only a few authors have been able to accomplish this feat. My favorites are William Kotzwinkle, Daniel Pinkwater and Neil Gaiman: Kotzwinkle for his poetic style, which teaches without being didactic; Pinkwater, because he makes me laugh out loud; and Gaiman, because he is scary, funny and never condescending. The Wolves in the Wall is Gaiman at his best.

While her mother was putting homemade jam in pots, her brother playing video games and her father out playing the tuba, “Lucy heard noises. The noises were coming from inside the walls. They were hustling noises and bustling noises. They were crinkling noises and crackling noises. They were sneaking creeping crumpling noises.”

And Lucy knew instinctively that there were wolves in the walls.

Who ever heard of wolves in the walls? Mice in the walls, even rats in the walls, but surely there never could be wolves in the walls. Naturally, no one would believe Lucy until it was too late, because “if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.”

With the help of the illustrations of Dave McKean, who also collaborated with Gaiman on two previous award-winning efforts, Caroline and The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish, the author brings the wolves to life in riotous revelry, as Lucy and her family try to find a way to win back their home.

Which they do, only to treat the reader to a surprise ending that would have made O’Henry proud.

The line between humor and horror is a thin one, and The Wolves in the Walls makes it disappear all together – a wonderful reading experience for all ages.
– Mark Graham

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Marian Creamer reported the following favorable review of Wolves in the Walls in the September 2003 issue of School Library Journal:

Lucy hears sounds in her house and is certain that the “sneaking, creeping, crumpling” noises coming from inside the walls are wolves. Her parents and her brother know “if the wolves come out. . . , it’s all over,” and no one believes that the creatures are there-until they come out. Then the family flees, taking refuge outside. It is Lucy who bravely returns to rescue her pig puppet and who talks the others into forcing the animals to leave. Gaiman and McKean deftly pair text and illustrations to convey a strange, vivid story evolving from a child’s worst, credible fear upon hearing a house creak and groan. Glowing eyes and expressive faces convey the imminent clanger. This rather lengthy picture book displays the striking characteristics of a graphic novel: numerous four-panel pages opening into spreads that include painted people; scratchy ink-lined wolves; and photographed, computer-manipulated images. Children will delight in the “scary, creepy tone” and in the brave behavior displayed by the intrepid young heroine.

And I believe there will be an Endless Nights review to follow in the October issue.

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Elizabeth Ward reported the following W
olves in the Walls
review in the September 28th Washington Post:

Another exuberant excursion to the dark side by the British creator of the Sandman and Coraline, in a picture-book format that foregrounds the work of Gaiman’s longtime collaborator Dave McKean. Young Lucy warns her family that there are “wolves in the walls”; she can hear them. She is ignored, of course, until the terrifying night when the yellow-eyed wolves burst out of their hiding place, sending the family fleeing to “the bottom of the garden,” a place of cold, curdled fears. Not to worry. Lucy rallies her folks to respond in kind. As the wolves party, “the people . . . come out of the walls!” Many children may find this book truly nightmarish, despite its essential zaniness (wolves feasting on toast and jam) and its reassuring joke of an ending.

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And Bernie Goedhart reported the following Wolves in the Walls review in the 27 September Montreal Gazette

It’s a wondrous thing when an author and illustrator are in synch and producing a book that is clearly something special.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean have long been a team worth watching; they are much admired for their Sandman series, a graphic novel. But with The Wolves in the Wall, they have hit their stride where children’s literature is concerned, too. It’s not their first collaboration in this genre – Coraline was the most recent – but, to me, it’s their best.
The text, a curious and somewhat ominous story about noises emanating from walls in a house, is solid and surefooted, with just the right touch of drama and hints of humour. The main character, Lucy, is convinced that the noises are made by wolves in the walls but her mother says it’s just mice, father supposes it’s rats and her brother says bats. “Besides,” each of them adds, “if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.”

That statement only adds to Lucy’s unease; ever alert, she is the only one prepared to stand up to the wolves when they emerge. And, in the end, she is the one to turn the tables on them and reclaim her family’s home.

The cutting-edge illustrations produced for this book by McKean are every bit a match for Gaiman’s wonderful text. Using various media, including pen and ink, photography, paints, collage and computer enhancement, McKean fashions two- and three-dimensional worlds of great artistry: the wolves existing largely in pen-and- ink format on paper, while Lucy and her family inhabit a more colourful, fully formed existence.

Ominous moments aside, the book’s surprising finale, reminiscent of a familiar joke, will dispel any lingering sense of fear.

Age 6 and up.

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Karen Unland reported the following Wolves in the Walls review in the Edmonton Journal on September 21st.

Everybody knows that when the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over. That’s what Lucy’s family jokes when she insists the hustling, bustling, crinkling and crackling she hears at night is evidence of something far more serious than mice.

The heroine of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls challenges conventional wisdom twice in this entertaining tale, stunningly illustrated by Dave McKean. First Lucy questions her family’s certainty that there are no wolves in the walls. And then, when these noisy, messy, uninvited guests take over the house, she refuses to give up. It’s not all over after all.

This is a familiar theme — a child tells a story no one believes, only to be proven right — but Gaiman finds an unpredictable and hilarious way to retell it. McKean’s illustrations — off-kilter collages of photographs and drawings — leap off the page as vividly as the wolves leap out of the walls. It’s a good read, for adults as much as for children.

That said, this isn’t a bedtime book for the very young. It’s a bit scary, and it’s wordy enough that little ones will fall asleep or lose patience before the mostly happy ending. The book is aimed at six- to 10-year-olds, but The Wolves in the Walls is worth reading no matter how old you are. If you are a fan of Gaiman’s work for adults (including his celebrated Sandman series of graphic novels), you will want to add this one to your collection.

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Leigh Fenly reported a Wolves in the Walls review that same day to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

With its ochre-tinged pages and bizarrely featured people, here’s a book for the edgy picture book crowd — whomever that might be. Lucy is certain there are wolves in the walls of her house, although her jam-making mother, tuba-playing father and video-addict brother think she’s full of it. It turns out she’s right and, further, she’s got the sense to figure out how to make the wretched situation better.

Gaiman (“Coraline”) crafts a story that’s a little spooky and a little funny, a tough combination. But McKean’s illustrations are so dark and sophisticated, especially his skeletonized-looking people, that he’s likely to strike out with a kid audience. Adults, though, will dig it.

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From the September 13th Calgary Herald:
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean (HarperCollins, 56 pages, $23.99)

In this creepy comedy, young Lucy discovers that even when the worst thing imaginable happens, a little courage and ingenuity can still save the day. Lucy hears “scrambling, rambling, rustling” in the walls, and nobody in her family will take her seriously. In fact, they make it worse, telling her there are no wolves in the walls, but if there were — and if they came out — “it would be all over.” Of course, they do, and the family is chased from its home. The wolves have a grand time in their new digs, wearing Mom’s best clothes, playing Dad’s tuba, and beating Lucy’s brother’s high scores on his video games. Even worse, Lucy’s precious pig puppet is still in the house. To save her best pal, Lucy creeps back into the midst of the wolf party on a rescue mission.

Like Saba in Ruler of the Courtyard [a book also reviewed in the article], Lucy makes the journey from fear to triumph, but with a hefty measure of humour along the way. Neil Gaiman is revered by fans of graphic novels for his Sandman series, and he imports many elements of the genre into this storybook for older children.

The visual elements are vivid and fascinating, and downright spooky in parts.

The story, again like Ruler of the Courtyard, is a gem for discussing courage with kids — though maybe not ideal for reading at bedtime. It’s almost too imaginative for the time before dreaming.
-Leanne Dohy

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From the August 31st Chicago Tribune:
The Wolves in the Walls, Ages 8-11 years.

This picture book is not for the nursery set. Lucy (who looks preteen) hears noises coming from inside the walls of her home. Lucy’s explanation: ” ‘There are wolves in the walls.’ ” Her mother’s response: ” ‘I’m sure it’s not wolves. For you know what they say. . . . If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.’ ”

Actually, Lucy’s correct, and the wolves do come out of the walls, but it is not all over. In a winsomely Gothic turn, the family gets tired of sleeping rough in the garden to which they have fled and returns to the house “into the back hall and into the walls.” Observing that the wolves are ru
de, untidy guests, they campaign to drive the wolves out. And, as everyone knows, ” ‘When the people come out of the walls, it’s all over!’ ”

-Mary Harris Russell

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Fred Phillips reviewed Wolves in the Walls for the Monroe News Star:
When the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.

No one’s really sure why it’s all over, or even what it is. But they all say it, so it has to be true, right?

The wolves do indeed come out in “The Wolves in the Walls” ($16.99, HarperCollins) the latest children’s book from master fantasist Neil Gaiman.

When Lucy begins to hear scratchings and rustlings in the walls of her home, she knows the wolves have come. The problem is that no on in her family believes her. When she brings it up, they all think she has an overactive imagination, and they all tell her the same thing – “When the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.”

The book gets even more weird when the wolves do decide to come out. They take over the house, running Lucy and her family out. Lucy’s parents and her brothers begin to consider all of the places they can move to get well away from the wolves, but Lucy doesn’t want to live anywhere but her house. When she decides to go back in and confront the wolves, everyone gets a surprise.

I’ve been a fan of Gaiman since reading his “Sandman” comics in high school (and no, it’s not about the guy from Spider-Man that can turn himself into sand.) He’s one of the most inventive writers out there. “Good Omens,” his collaboration with Terry Pratchett further reinforced that opinion, and his novels “Neverwhere,” “Stardust” and “American Gods” are some of the best out there.

“The Wolves in the Walls” has the same kind of twisted humor you’ll find in his other books, but the story remains light enough for young readers.

Artist Dave McKean worked on the “Sandman” books and also illustrated Gaiman’s other children’s books, “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish” and “Coraline.” His illustrations are the perfect match for this story – creepy, but whimsical at the same time.

While it’s a picture book, it might be a bit too intense for very young children. There’s no violence or anything really questionable that parents should be concerned about, but some of the wolf drawings might bring a bad dream or two to the truly young. Think of it as a more intense version of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

In the end, though, as creepy as the story is and as scary as the wolves may be, little Lucy finds a way to triumph by using her wits. Despite his affection for the darker stories, Gaiman manages to show children that their nightmares aren’t as bad as they think, and all you have to do is stand up to them. And he does it in a way that can provide an interesting diversion even for his adult fans.

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People magazine said the following about Wolves in the Walls when they recommended it for children in their annual holiday gift guide:
An artfully rendered (but too dark for the very young) tale of a girl’s nightmare come to life, written by the creator of the haunting Sandman comic-book series.

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Lisa Thalhimer reviewed Wolves in the Walls for the Richmond (VA) Parents Monthly.

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Iain Emsley reviewed Wolves in the Walls in the October 2003 January Magazine