Alice and Jack’s ball game in the meadow is disturbed by a strange noise: ‘Ocka by hay bees unna da reeees’ comes the sound from the nearby forest. “Let’s go and see!” suggests Alice. Jack is less enthusiastic; he’s concerned in case it’s the “Wicked Wolf.” Nevertheless, off they go with Alice reassuringly clutching her little brother’s hand. More sounds are heard and more; Jack’s certain they’re lost and is imagining a big, bad clawed, snap-trap jawed wolf’ and longing for the comfort of snuggly pyjamas. Once again, Alice encourages bravery. Then, when the next sound comes, seemingly right in front of them, the dynamic suddenly shifts.
“Run!” she cries, “All the way home!” But Jack has seen something amazing and not at all alarming. Yes, it is a very large wolf but certainly not a wicked one and she’s not alone. But what is she doing? There’s a clue in the line at the beginning of this review, but I’ll say no more.
Every word of Knapman’s text is carefully weighed and his pacing of the tale brilliantly controlled. As ever Helen Oxenbury’s watercolour illustrations are sheer delight. She takes readers right back to the seemingly timeless days of childhood evoking a bygone era when it felt safe to allow children to roam freely with nothing but their sense of adventure and their imaginations to accompany them.
The combination of the two is picturebook eloquence of the first order and a treat to share at bedtime or indeed, any time.