A lesson in the cruelty of discrimination and the benefits of inclusion.
A little wolf encounters fear and mistrust from the other kids in the forest when he sets out in search of playmates. After being rebuffed by a squirrel, a bunny, and a fox, who all say, “I’m not allowed to play with wolves,” the overalls-clad cub ends up alone and in tears. Finally, a passing bumblebee asks, “Do you want to play with me?” Delighted to find someone who doesn’t fear him, the little wolf plays hide-and-seek with his new friend, and they chase each other through the forest. Predictably, their laughter catches the attention of the squirrel, bunny, and fox. After the squirrel inquires, “Can I play, too?” the others join in, followed swiftly by a bear, owl, mole, mouse, deer, boar, and bat. The final illustration is a lovely, two-page image of the 12 friends watching a gorgeous sunset together, a poignant reminder that they’re more alike than different. The obvious irony, of course, is that while discrimination has an arbitrary, unfair quality, responsible squirrel and rabbit parents would be quite right to warn their offspring against playing with wolves. The animals who disregarded the warnings of their parents could well have ended up as dinner.
Even though it’s a little odd to see a harmless predator in the lead role, the book’s message is clear, and the artwork is colorful, distinctive, and engaging. (Board book. 2-5)