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Book Review: A Hero Called Wolf by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle (Macmillan)

For ages 4+

I remember my oldest coming home from school a few years ago and telling me all about 'fractured fairy tales' - I'd never heard of them! Witty twists on the traditional tales to help children to think differently about the characters and plots. Now my youngest is going through the KS1 teaching curriculum, I thought I'd had all the variants of 'The Three Little Pigs' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' I could take... I was so wrong!

Discovering Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle's brilliant rhyming 'fractured fairy tales' picture book series a couple of years ago was an absolute Godsend. Not only have I used them in my local primary school book clubs and bookshop storytimes, but they're read and re-read at home too whether I'm reading them to my children or I'm being treated to a being read to by my 6 year old! What joy! Previous titles include: 'Little Red Reading Hood' and 'The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Book'.

About the story

Poor old Wolf. He's rather broken and down in the dumps. Now we're 3 books into this series, he's mended his ways, he's got some new friends and learned to share, and never goes anywhere without a storybook in his satchel. But... how come he never sees himself in a book where he's the hero? He doesn't feel he belongs. He needs cheering up... and where better to head... his local library and the lovely Mrs Jones the librarian.

Mrs Jones suggests that if the Wolf can't see himself in a book then perhaps he could write one. Eek... what would that mean? Wolf is a bit befuddled as to how to create a hero Wolf character ... does he need big muscles and a cape, does he need to be handsome, or clever, or strong? Is that really how he sees himself?

All of a sudden the library doors burst open... a strong Woodcutter has an emergency, a tough (female) Knight has a horse problem, a handsome princely hero has a fashion disaster... and Wolf knows just the book each time to help! Their hero! ... Until, a fearsome giant booms onto the scene and the stereotypical heroes are ready to fight! Wolf yells 'STOP' and from one once-feared baddie to another he flexes his new hero skills of kindness and bravery. He welcomes the giant to the library with a 'how may I help'. How wonderful!

Little did they all know, the giant is an avid reader and has read ALL his books, heard all the tales, and is desperately in need of something new. Ahhhh, remember what Mrs Jones the librarian suggested to Wolf back at the beginning of the story? Well Wolf began writing...

The illustrations by Mantle throughout the story are colourful, fun and engaging. I love the attention to detail and humour throughout.

Once you've finished reading the story, I must say, it's so much fun looking at the end papers (the inside front and back cover pages) with your child/children. The first double spread features Wolf dressed as more stereotypical hero characters (kung fu warrior, knight, flying superhero etc). Head then to the last double spread for transformed hero Wolf characters (helping ducks cross the road, helping with someone's bags, doing a litter pick etc). Oh and it's got a lovely sparkly front cover too!

About the creators

Lucy Rowland (author)

Lucy Rowland is a Children’s Speech and Language Therapist and lives in the Gloucestershire countryside. With a real passion for language and lots of experience working with young children, Lucy was thrilled when she finally made the leap into picture book writing. When she’s not daydreaming about story ideas, reading A. A. Milne or thinking up fun new rhymes, Lucy enjoys backpacking, baking and long walks on the beach. She is rather scared of spiders (and spider-related tricks!) but has now (bravely) done the highest bungee jump in the world!

Ben Mantle (illustrator)

Ben Mantle is a talented artist and animator. He is well known for his children’s books illustrations.

Ben was born in Leamington Spa in 1980, and developed a very early interest in things artistic, designing programme covers for school productions and even coming first in his local library colouring-in competition.

From there he went on to study animation at Surrey Institute of Art & Design, graduating in 2003. He then gained valuable experience working on Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” before moving to Brighton to work as ‘Head of Animation’ in a media company, focusing on Character and Background design.

He was also part of the Animation team creating the BAFTA winning ‘Big and Sall’ CBeebies website.

Since 2008, Ben has been working as a Children’s Book Illustrator from his shared studio in Brighton and he also produces screen prints and digital artwork to exhibit. He mainly works on books these days for a large range of clients like Usborne, Harper Collins, Cadbury and Egmont. Be is represented by the Bright Agency who are based in London.

He illustrated ‘Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit’ which won the Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book prize 2013. Ben currently lives in Brighton.

Follow Ben on Instagram

Key themes


Fractured fairy tale

Challenging stereotypes


Inclusive characters

Buy this book!

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Format: Hardback

Publication date: 6 January 2022

Format: Paperback

Publication date: 6 January 2022

Format: Audible Audiobook

Publication date: 6 January 2022

Previous titles in the series:

Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Book by Lucy Rowland, illustrated by Ben Mantle (Macmillan)

Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland, illustrated by Ben Mantle (Macmillan)

Please like this post and leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts too!

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