The Big Bad Wolf in My House by Valérie Fontaine

The Big Bad Wolf in My House by Valérie Fontaine
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A young girl describes what it’s like when her mom’s new friend comes to stay — a moving story about domestic violence that ends on a hopeful note.

The young girl tells us that her mom’s new friend is just like the big bad wolf. At first the wolf is sweet and kind to her mom, though the girl notices the wolf’s cold eyes from the very beginning. When her mom arrives home late one day, the wolf suddenly hurls angry words and terrible names at her. From that day on her mother doesn’t smile anymore. The girl is careful to clean her room and brush her teeth and do everything to keep the peace, but the wolf is unpredictable, throwing plates on the floor, yelling at her mother and holding the girl’s arm so tightly she is left with bruises. Whenever the yelling begins, she hides under the covers in her room.

How will she and her mom cope as the wolf becomes increasingly fierce?

Not everyone in this world is loving and kind.

I was impressed by how the author’s clever use of metaphor allowed her to talk about various forms of abuse that are rarely if ever mentioned in children’s fiction, especially stories written for the youngest little ones. By framing it as a big bad wolf being invited into an unsuspecting family’s home, she was able to cover subjects like the cycle of domestic violence in ways that kids can understand without frightening them.

My only piece of constructive criticism for this tale had to do with some ambiguity about the age group for which it was written. I was never quite sure who exactly it was meant for. Some sections seemed to be geared towards preschoolers, while others were subtle enough that they seemed to be written for older kids or even preteens. This is such an important topic to cover for kids affected by it that I did wish things had been made clearer in that regard.

With that being said, the ending was wonderfully appropriate for children of all ages. The author was definitely covering some heavy subjects in this tale, but be assured that she kept her audience in mind when writing the last few scenes. I appreciated the sensitivity she showed while explaining what happened to the main character and her mother after they realized there was a metaphorical wolf living with them.

I’d recommend The Big Bad Wolf in My House to families who have experienced verbal, emotional, physical, or any other form of abuse.

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