Margie Palatini, illustrated by Henry Cole, Bad Boys (Harper Collins, 2003)
At the start of Margie Palatini's Bad Boys, we meet Willy Wolf and Wally Wolf, who are on the run from their intended dinners. Willy is the make-like-a-granny wolf from the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale, and Wally is the huffer and puffer from "The Three Little Pigs." The little girl and all of the pigs one armed with a brick, another with a stick are chasing after Willy and Wally. Deciding they should lay low from the law for awhile, these two "really, really bad" boys dress themselves up as sheep, change their names to Willimina and Wallanda, and take refuge in a flock of twenty ewes.
The first few times I read Bad Boys to myself, I giggled the whole way through. This picture book is a sequel to "The Three Little Pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood," and a parody of "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" and "Little Bo Peep." The story is full of subtle jokes that I thought were really very funny. The lively and expressive illustrations by Henry Cole add to the humor of the book, and I laughed particularly hard when our wolves in sheep's clothing got sheared. The text doesn't have much rhythm and reads a bit awkwardly, but I didn't notice this until later when I read it aloud to my son.
Unfortunately, although I thought pretty highly of this book, when it comes to the entertainment value of a picture book, it's really a child's opinion that counts. My son isn't a picky audience when it comes to being read to, but I do believe I've found his least favorite picture book ever in Bad Boys. He loves almost all books we read and likes most of those he doesn't love; therefore, I was shocked when this book that I enjoyed so much seemed to do nothing for him. To be sure, he understood it; we read it several times and discussed it. He assured me that he knew all about "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs," and I recited the "Little Bo Peep" nursery rhyme and explained to him that those were the sheep Willy and Wanda were pretending to be. We read it several more times over the next few weeks, and my son finally said, "Mama, this book is boring."
Now, to be fair, my son is only three years old and the recommended age group for this book is four and up. However, we have read several other books by Margie Palatini in this same age group and my son has enjoyed them very much, including Piggie Pie and Moosetache. Furthermore, most of the books my son is currently enthusiastic about fall into this age range.
My favorite books are those that capture my son's interest while giving me a little chuckle at the same time. In the case of Bad Boys, adult readers will love the sophisticated humor, but their children may not get the joke.
Margie Palatini's official Web site is here. Henry Cole can be found at Reading is Fundamental.