Originally published Penguin Group (Australia), 2006.
US edition: Front Street (Boyd Mills Press), 2007.
Picture Book, ages 10 & up.
In a strange and sinister world, Ben is in hiding from the “woolvs.” His only ally, Missus Radinski, doesn’t believe the woolvs exist–until it is too late.
Alone, Ben must go out into the streets and confront his fears.
In Woolvs in the Sitee, award-winning team Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas chart new territory. They have created a book that is both beautiful and challenging. ~jacket copy
As I was browsing the Teen Graphic Novel section (the only place graphic novels aren’t dispersed into the stacks) Margaret Wild & Anne Spudvilas’ picture book caught my eye. Woolvs in the Sittee‘s cover is intriguingly creepy; and my mind went immediately to Dave McKean. The jacket copy drew me in deeper, though afterward I found it forgivably misleading for the most part.
What is actually going on in Woolvs in the Sitee is not transparent. In a way, the paranoia of the protagonist Ben could have sketched the hostile environment, imagined these Woolvs that “spare no won.” Ben’s only neighbor Mussus Radinski thinks he should get out more, go to school. But as Ben observes, even Radinski “stares up at the sky wen she goes serching for water with her littil buket. She offen trips. Grazes an elbow. a nee. I don’t blame her for not looking down.” Maybe it is Missus Ridinski who is “scrooching down” into her delusions.
After Ben is lured outside and into a harrowing moment, there is little doubt on anyone’s part that the Woolvs are real; though who they are is another matter. And what they’ve done, still another.
The situation is creepy, and the font, the phonetic spelling by the narrator Ben, the charcoal (slashing in the background, fluid and real with the characters), the colors used and how applied, the perspectives in the composition of each illustration… Wild and Spudvilas truly capture the atmospheric and set the reader on an edge.
“Spudvilas’s rough charcoal sketches of deserted streets and vacant interiors slash the full-bleed spreads, and watercolor washes of sour yellow, blood red and toxic green imply apocalypse.”~Publisher’s Weekly.
It is unclear what created the situation, or how it is resolved. Woolvs only tells the story of one lone boy hiding, keeping occasional company with his older, maternal neighbor, who is eventually forced to confront his situation in a new way after she disappears. Will he continue to remain “scrooched up in won room in a mustte basement, hevy kertins akross the window?” Or will he go out and reclaim the “streets as his rivers and the parks as his vallees?” And ultimately, will he go it alone?–which is an unanticipated ending, an ending in which you realize just how far the narrator and his creators wish to draw the Reader into their world. The “yoo” Ben is addressing is a device the writer is taking seriously. This world Ben lives in isn’t just happening to him. The Woolvs may in fact kum for yoo, as he warns, for yoo and “yor bruthers and sisters, yor muthers and fathers, yor arnts and unkils, yor grandfathers and grandmuthers. No won is spared.”
Whether the story will find success with the Reader is left to the Reader. The ending was strange and somewhat abrupt, certainly more open-ended than I expected. Publisher’s Weekly observes: Woolves in the Sitee ”reads more as a prequel to a thriller than as a tale in its own right.” Is this where the “challenging” part of the jacket copy’s assertion comes in? What does the unsettling aspects of the story provoke–to include ending it as it does?
I can say it is well-rendered, and it’s a nice creepy little read. And it may be a delicious little writing prompt; may be you decide to “joyn” Ben; may be you’ve a beginning of your own.