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Wolf Story

by William McCleery

Hardcover, 82 pages, Random House Distribution childrens, List Price: $14.95 |


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Wolf Story
William McCleery

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Book Summary

A young father tells his 5-year-old son humorous variations on the theme of a hen escaping the clutches of a wily wolf. Illustrated by Warren Chappell.

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A Father's Decades-Old Bedtime Story Is Back In Print

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Wolf Story

Chapter 1


nce upon a time a man was putting his five-year-old son Michael to bed and the boy asked for a story.

"All right," said the man. "Well, let me see. Oh yes. Well, once upon a time there was a girl with long golden hair and they called her Goldilocks."

"No, no," said the boy. "A new story."

"A new story?" said the man. "What about?"

"About a hen," said the boy.

"Good!" said the man. "I was afraid you might want another wolf story. Well, once upon a time there was a hen." The man stopped.

"Go on," said the boy. "what are you waiting for?"

"What is a good name for a hen?"

Michael looked very thoughtful. "Make it that the hen's name is ... Rainbow," he said.

"Why rainbow?" asked the father.

"Why Rainbow?" asked the father.

"Because," said the boy, "he had all different colored feathers."

"He?" said the man.

"She," said the boy.

"All right," said the man. "But you understand that there is no such thing as a hen with all different colored feathers." The man did not like to tell his son things that were not true.

"I know, I know," said the boy. "Go on."

And the man continued: "Once upon a time there was a hen. She was called Rainbow because her feathers were of many different colors: red and pink and purple and lavender and magenta—" The boy yawned. —"and violet and yellow and orange ... "

"That will be enough colors," said the boy.

"And green and dark green and light green ..."

"Daddy! Stop!" cried the boy. "Stop saying so many colors. You're putting me to sleep!"

"Why not?" said the man. "This is bedtime."

"But I want some story first!" said the boy. "Not just colors."

"All right, all right," said the man. "Well, Rainbow lived with many other hens in a house on a farm at the edge of a deep dark forest and in the deep dark forest lived a guess what."

"A wolf," said the boy, sitting up in bed.

"No, sir!" cried the man.

"Make it that a wolf lived in the deep dark forest," said the boy.

"Please," said the man. "Anything but a wolf. A weasel, a ferret, a lion, an elephant ..."

"A wolf," said the boy.

"Well, all right," groaned the man, "but please don't sit up in bed. Put your head on your pillow and shut your eyes."

"O.K.," said the boy. He turned his pillow over so that it would be cool against his cheek.

"So," said the man. "In the forest lived a stupid old wolf, too tired to do any harm."

"No!" cried the boy, sitting up in bed again. "The wolf is fierce! Terribly, terribly fierce!!"

"Haven't we had enough stories about terribly fierce wolves?" cried the man.


"All right," said the man. "A terribly, terribly fierce wolf with red eyes and teeth as long and sharp as butcher knives."

"Mmmmmmmm," said the boy, putting his cheek on his pillow again and shutting his eyes.

"I supposed you like that about the butcher knives," said the man.

"I love it," said the boy. "Go on."

"Well, one night when it was very dark the wolf came slinking out of the forest. By the way, what is the wolf's name?"

"Waldo," said the boy.

"No, no," said the man.

"Yes, yes," said the boy.

"But Waldo was in our last story! He's been in every story since Christmas. Can't we ever have a new one?"

The boy shook his head. "No, because Waldo is the fiercest wolf in all the world!"

"Put your head on your pillow," said the man.

The boy put his head on the pillow. "Go on," he said.

"Well, this wolf named Waldo came slinking out of the forest very quietly," whispered the man. "very, very quietly. In fact nobody could hear him."

"Talk a little louder," said the boy. "I can't hear you."

"Michael," said the man. "If you open your mouth once more I will stop telling the story and go downstairs."

" ... I will stop telling the story and go downstairs."

"All right," said the boy. "But what did the wolf do when he slinked out of the forest?"

"Slunk," said the man.

"Slunk," said the boy.

"Or maybe slank," said the man.

"Make it that he crawled out of the forest," said the boy, "but go on!!"

"Michael!" said the man. "You were not to open your mouth!"

"I was helping," said the boy.

"I was helping," said the boy.

"Don't do it again. Well, so the wolf Waldo crawled out of the forest one night when the moon was bright and crept over to the hen house. For a long time the wolf had been watching Rainbow with his big red eyes. He wanted to eat the hen and save her pretty feathers to make an Indian headdress." The boy smiled because he knew it was a joke. A wolf would never think of making an Indian headdress. He would have laughed but he was too sleepy. "The feathers were so beautiful," said the man. "Red and pink and purple and lavender."

"Oooohhh!" yawned the boy.

"And magenta ... and ... violet ... and ... yellow ..."

The man got up quietly from where he had been sitting on the bed beside the boy. He opened the window and pulled the blanket up around the boy's chin and crept quietly out of the room, almost as quietly as the wolf Waldo. The boy was sound asleep.

Excerpted from Wolf Story by William McCleery and illustrated by Warren Chappell. Copyright 1947 by William McCleery. Excerpted by permission of NYRB Children's Collection.