Opening with a full page close-up on a very snazzy pair of long, red socks, this story immediately grabs our attention. ‘Whose socks are these?’ we are asked. Turn the page to meet the owner, Mr Wolf, clearly delighted to be clad in such eye-catching apparel. Indeed, ‘Mr Wolf felt taller when he wore them’ says the text and yes, in the illustration he is standing tall and proud, almost rising off the ground in Tatyana Feeney’s naïve, appealing pencil illustrations. Pictures follow of him dancing for joy, but trouble is approaching: a hole appears in the heel of one of the socks, and gets bigger and bigger until the picture fills almost the whole page. Mr Wolf tries various methods to fix things until finally resorting to the library and a book.
This is where the story takes off in a new direction: Mr Wolf notices a piece of yarn, just what he needs now, and follows it determinedly through town and countryside until he reaches the sheep it is attached to. The obliging sheep is happy to read the book while Mr Wolf darns his socks with its wool, and indeed creates two new pairs. It’s a warm, witty celebration of, well, lots of things: the joy of fixing and making something; the ordinary pleasures that something like a bright pair of socks can bring; even of Ireland itself – a map on the frontispiece shows the path of Mr Wolf’s journey around his homeland as he follows the yarn. Tatyana Feeney’s use of printmaking techniques adds interesting textures and despite the simple story there’s a real variety of scene, image and composition. Mr Wolf is a hugely appealing character, slightly gawky but with a real confidence in himself and what he needs to do. A charming picture book for the very young.
We asked Tatyana Feeney to choose her favourite spread from the book and she chose this one:
‘I had a hard time picking one, but I really love the sunflower page because of all the bright colours and because Mr Wolf is feeling so happy and proud in his red socks.’