Little Wolf and Smellybreff: Badness for Beginners by Ian Whybrow and Tony Ross, is a picture book about the joys of manners, or the lack of them. It is part of a bigger series by Whybrow and Ross which includes picture books and more text based, longer books that sit between novels and picture books, and which also involve the characters Little Wolf and Smelly Breff.
In this story, suitable for both boys and girls aged between 3 ad 7 (although more slanted towards boys, I feel), Little Wolf and Smellybreff’s parents are teaching them how to be bad.
Smellybreff is a genius at being bad. It is just something he is instinctively good at. Little Wolf is too polite, too kind and too worried about the consequences of what he is doing. His parents despair of him, because no matter how hard he tries, Little Wolf ends up doing the wrong thing by accident. Where he should be unrepentant, he is sorry, where he should be destructive, he is careful, and the most naughty thing Little Wolf can think of to do is to make a mud pie on a bridge. Smellybreff, on the other hand, drills an enormous hole next to the mud pie, using the pneumatic drill of the builders he has previously scared away.
Little Wolf is in despair until the last, where a series of unfortunate events proves him to be very much as bad as his little brother, but with completely unexpected results for his parents.
I loved the fact that this book is rude and silly and funny, and had my six year old son in fits of giggles, and yet, at the same time it manages to deliver a very clear message about what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour, and just what being naughty will get you.
Little Wolf and Smellybreff are excellent characters and the book is an exuberant celebration of the fun the author and illustrator are clearly having with this pair.
The book would be excellent as part of a wider topic on fairy stories, as a prelude to introducing the concept of the big, bad wolf. It would also be good as part of a topic on manners, were you going to be using it in a school setting. If you aren’t, it’s just a very funny, very entertaining book, that is as joyful for parents to read as children to listen to.