The inspiration for the story itself may come from Red Riding Hood but this puts a lovely and positive spin on the wolf - who is female, NOT a stalker of children or scary.
It starts with a child lost in a forest, with dark impressionistic drawings that might be better for a slighter older small child. You can almost smell the damp leaves underfoot, or hear the haunting hoot of the owl. The illustrations have a great sense of movement and things are half-seen – with all the magical and mystical power that suggests.
There is plenty of wildlife in the wood and you get a strong sense that it is to be respected, that is will always be there despite the odd human intervention. Yes, Evie does meet the wolf and the wolf indeed is initially scary. It stands before the little child ‘filling the world with wildness.’ But Evie offers the creature food – ‘seven tarts with bright jam’ and from that point, a friendship is instantly formed. The rich poetic prose is exquisitely gentle throughout ‘Little Evie stroked the wolf’s velvet ears, leant against her side, listened to her breathing.’
The wolf is a protector and ultimately Evie’s saviour, transporting her from the Wild Wood to rejoin her own human family. It has a rare nurturing quality, a generosity of spirit and the most wonderfully positive portrayal of the wolf I have seen for a very long time. How better to get children to sleep than to reassure them that the ‘wild’ world is a friend and that the wolf may be big, but it is not bad? It’s also a work of art that anyone would love.