the wolf suit

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m glad, as an adult with limited free time for reading, to have the motivation (and a list of nominees!) of being a panelist for the Cybils Awards. It focuses my reading, forces me to set aside the time in my schedule, and picks some of the best titles of the year that I might not have heard of already. A book I wouldn’t have selected on my own, but enjoyed immensely, was Sid Sharp’s elementary/middle grade graphic novel The Wolf Suit.


the wolf suit by sid sharp book cover
Bellwether Riggwelter is, once again, out of blackberries. This time, rather than tiptoe through a forest full of predators, he comes up with a new plan. He will keep himself safe by blending in—he will sew a Wolf Suit! The disguise works perfectly... sort of. Bellwether realizes he can’t enjoy the forest in a bulky suit, and he may not be the only creature in the forest who feels that way. Perhaps not everyone is as wolfish as they appear.

Bellwether the sheep is afraid… of wolves. And since wolves live in the forest, he’s afraid of the forest as well. Since his house is *in the forest* this is really cramping his flower-smelling and blackberry-eating lifestyle! In a fun and funny graphic novel for the ages 7+ set, author-illustrator Sharp plays with the traditional tale of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Their lovely, stylized, and slightly unsettling artwork is juxtaposed with humor, and twists and turns for a thoroughly entertaining volume.


The Wolf Suit features themes of changing yourself to fit expectations or face your fears and finding unique ways to cope with the tough moments in life. But really, the themes take a back seat to the entertainment factor, which I think is just right for the target age of the audience. Bellwether the sheep also has some mad quilting skills – I appreciated that were no gendered activities/expectations in this book! The moments of hilarity resulted most often from the creatures’ expressions, the situation, and the narrative’s surprises.


Graphic novels live and die by their art, and this title is no exception: it features lush full-color art done in pencil, watercolor, ink, acrylic, and dirt (yes, that last one was a surprise to me too!). In my notes I originally wrote that the art was gorgeous – and I do think it is. But it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea because it’s not cute and sanitized. It’s meant to have a bit of an edge, and I loved that. Mushrooms and spiders appear on several pages, so young readers accustomed to reappearing motifs in picture books will have fun looking for those. The endpapers featured beautiful details of the natural world, with slightly creepy offset eyes – all adding up to a whole that is a little zany and a lot of fun.


In all, The Wolf Suit is beautifully designed, engaging, and just sinister enough. It’s the next step up from Bethann Woollvin’s picture book fairy tale retellings, and features funny anthropomorphic fantasy with no magic, but with a twist.


Recommended for: graphic novels for the younger end of the middle grade reading category (ages 7-9, most likely), and anyone who appreciates twists or new takes on fairy tales.

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