Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf by Frank Asch

Frank Asch, best known for his Moonbear books, has returned to his original illustration style in this story of three little pigs and a big bad wolf.

Poppa Pig, Momma Pig, and Little Pig are having a quiet afternoon in their little brick house when the Big Bad Wolf knocks on the door. Unfortunately, Little Pig thinks it's a surprise party and happily welcomes the Big Bad Wolf into the house. His parents decide to go along with it and they throw the wolf a party. They bake a cake and Little Pig raids his toy box for a present. The wolf is surprised and pleased with his chocolate cake and snuggly rabbit...but still plans to eat the pig family. Until they run and hide in the forest after he blows out the candles on the cake.

The wolf, upset that he's been tricked, begins to cry and Little Pig races back to comfort him. They play birthday games and the wolf gets supper after all - but soup and salad and vegetable casserole instead of pork, with chocolate cake for desert. The wolf stays over on the couch and everyone has a new friend.

Fans of Asch's blocky, simple illustration style in Moonbear will be pleased to see a similar style here, although the backgrounds and general color scheme are much lighter. There's nothing particularly new about this story of hungry wolf reformation, but the birthday theme is a nice touch and Little Pig's naivety that keeps messing up his parents' plans to escape will get some giggles out of the listeners. Asch's illustration style isn't to my personal taste, but the one problem I really have with this story is its length. Every page has a large chunk of text, ranging from four or five sentences under a half page illustration to a complete page of text facing an illustration on the opposite page. The length of this story makes it unsuitable for younger listeners; only a very quiet preschooler or kindergartener is going to sit still for something this long and it's really better suited for 1st through 3rd grades. However, the story itself is a little young for the upper grades, which leaves it drifting in "too much text" land.

Verdict: Purchase if you have a strong group of Asch fans, but there are many birthday and big bad wolf stories just as good but much shorter.

ISBN: 9781553373681; Published February 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates

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