This graphic thriller will keep you in suspense from the word go. The conventional story-telling structure of introduction, complication and resolution is being challenged. The main complication is pre-existing and all-pervading, though what it is has not been spelled out. Its unconventional, phonetically and grammatically distorted, writing paired with rough charcoal drawings washed with dramatic reds and blues create tension and set the ominous mood. The seemingly abandoned dimly lit cityscapes washed with dusty orange and yellows are reminiscent of the apocalyptic appearance of Australian skies and towns during the recent raging bush-fires.
Teenage Ben dreads the ‘woolvs’ who are everywhere in this abandoned ‘sitee’: “And soon they will kum. They will kum for me and for yoo… No won is spared”. Other than with his fears, Ben’s only interaction is with his neighbour, a kind older lady Missus Radinksi, who doesn’t quite seem to relate to his fears at first. “She dusn’t unnerstand abowt the woolvs. She thinks I’m torking abowt those luvlee wyld creechis, running in the woods. That’s not wot I meens. Not at all! The woolvs are hatefuls, and hating. They are in the sitee, they are evereewhere. They spare no won. Lissen. LISSEN!” Eventually, Mrs Radinksi dissapears and Ben fights his fears, leaves his ‘mustee basement’ and steps out into the ominous streets to search for the only human he has had connection with after the disaster in whose aftermath his story unfolds.
First published in 2006, this book probably resonates with today’s tensions a lot more than it has fourteen years ago, remaining relevant (if not scarily prophetic) in the world pervaded by natural disasters, epidemic outbreaks as well as constant anxiety and hysteria of the human psyche. “It will all be fine agen, won of these days. I am shore” were Mrs Radinski’s last words to Ben the night before she has vanished. One wants to believe that she was right… Whilst Ben’s concluding lines make for what might be the best response to the impending doom: “My hart is jackhammering, but I will no longer let the woolvs forse me to scrooch. I will no longer let them stop me from making the streets my rivers and the parks my vallees. Joyn me.“
“Woolvs in The Sitee” written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Anne Spudvilas has been a notable book in the CBCA 2007 Book of the Year Awards and won an Aurealis Award in the same year.
Margaret Wild’s contribution to children’s literature has been widely recognised. Australia Council for the Arts has recently presented her with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement in Literature Award. Read more about it here. In 2018 and 2019, she has been nominated for the international Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which recognises creators (authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and promoters of reading) whose work is of the highest quality and in the spirit of the legendary Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren. Margaret Wild has been nominated by IBBY Australia (International Board on Books for Young People) for 2021 Hans Christian Andersen Award (known as little Nobel-prize in children’s literature):
This is an awfully powerful book! It will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page.
For more great books on dealing with difficult feelings and emotions click here.
Click on the following links for reviews of some other great books by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas: Isobelle Carmody and Anne Spudvilas “Night School”; Christobel Mattingley and Anne Spudvials “The Race”; Margaret Wild and Dee Huxley “Light the Lamps”