The Wolves in the Walls

( 12 )


Lucy hears sneaking, creeping,
crumpling noises coming from inside the walls.

She is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her house.

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Lucy hears sneaking, creeping,
crumpling noises coming from inside the walls.

She is sure there are wolves living in the walls of her house.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean -- the pair who brought you the chilling bestseller Coraline -- make a frightening and darkly amusing return in this hair-raising picture book about a family and their wall-dwelling wolf problem.

Based on the cacophony of noises coming from inside, Lucy's sure there are wolves in the walls of her house. No one in her family believes her suspicions, but when the wolves finally emerge one night after "a howling and a yowling, a bumping and a thumping," Lucy, her brother, and her parents hightail it outside to safety. After some family bickering about what they should all do, Lucy bravely decides to rescue her pig-puppet, which has been mistakenly left behind. While on her covert mission, the girl discovers lots of room inside the house's walls for habitation, and the family sneaks back into the house. There they see the wolves watching TV, playing video games (even beating the high scores), and "playing an old wolf melody on Lucy's father's second-best tuba," In a grand turning of the tables, they leap out of the walls, scare the intruders away, and reclaim their home for good.

Disarmingly imaginative and brilliantly twisted, Gaiman and McKean's picture book rises above the level of mere scare tactics to mesmerize and grip readers with its blend of multilevel artwork, eccentric story, and creepy atmosphere. McKean's well-suited, amazing illustrations -- reminiscent of The Sandman and Coraline -- will bend your mind in fantastically freakish directions, while Gaiman's tale is sure to enthrall kids with a penchant for unnerving stories. Definitely cool, right down to the bone. Matt Warner

Washington Post
“The illustrations are amazing. And, like every good scary story, there’s an unexpected twist at the end.”
Family Fun Magazine
“Gaiman, with regular collaborator Dave McKean, suffuses this sumptuous story with a night-light-worthy creepiness.”
ALA Booklist
“This is a picture book for the twenty-first century child: visually and emotionally sophisticated, accessible, and inspired.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Spectacular…atmospheric, sinister, scary, and funny…This is a book for cool kids who will grow up to be fearless.”
The Guardian (UK)
“Madly inventive, madly funny. Some will find it creepy; for the rest it will offer the sustaining jam of life.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Gaiman has one creepy imagination. Hand this to a jaded third or fourth-grader and watch their eyes get big.”
The Guardian(UK)
"Madly inventive, madly funny. Some will find it creepy; for the rest it will offer the sustaining jam of life."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Gaiman has one creepy imagination. Hand this to a jaded third or fourth-grader and watch their eyes get big.”
The Washington Post
Many children may find this book truly nightmarish, despite its essential zaniness (wolves feasting on toast and jam) and its reassuring joke of an ending. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly
When the wolves begin to come out of the walls, a girl comes up with a strategy to frighten them off. "Gaiman's text rings with energetic confidence and an inviting tone," wrote PW. "McKean expertly matches the tale's funny-scary mood." All ages. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The trend toward quirky, edgy picture books takes a turn toward the ultra-quirky and ultra-edgy in this collaboration between Gaiman and McKean. Lucy is convinced that the hustling, bustling, crinkling, crackling, sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises she hears in the walls of her house must be wolves—and they are. Her mother denies Lucy's assessment, telling her darkly that it can't be wolves, because "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." But the wolves do come out of the walls, and Lucy's family must abandon their house to the wolves' revelry, only to end up living inside the walls themselves, and then finally reclaiming their house again. The text has its poignant moments—Lucy's brave journey back to rescue her pig-puppet—and humor, as the family mourns all that they've surrendered to the wolves: "My video game high scores!" wails her brother; "My second-best tuba!" wails her father. The art mingles photographic images, blank mask-like faces, and pen-and-ink drawings for an overall weird and grotesque effect. The message of the book seems to be to vindicate children's fears, however seemingly outlandish to adults: there are wolves in the walls, and so accordingly, there probably are real, child-eating monsters under the bed! But the wolves/monsters can also be defeated through courage and ingenuity. How best to describe the book? Quirky and edgy—edgy and quirky. And very, very strange. 2003, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8.
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Lucy hears sounds in her house and is certain that the "sneaking, creeping, crumpling" noises coming from inside the walls are wolves. Her parents and her brother know "if the wolves come out-, it's all over," and no one believes that the creatures are there-until they come out. Then the family flees, taking refuge outside. It is Lucy who bravely returns to rescue her pig puppet and who talks the others into forcing the animals to leave. Gaiman and McKean deftly pair text and illustrations to convey a strange, vivid story evolving from a child's worst, credible fear upon hearing a house creak and groan. Glowing eyes and expressive faces convey the imminent danger. This rather lengthy picture book displays the striking characteristics of a graphic novel: numerous four-panel pages opening into spreads that include painted people; scratchy ink-lined wolves; and photographed, computer-manipulated images. Children will delight in the "scary, creepy tone" and in the brave behavior displayed by the intrepid young heroine.-Marian Creamer, Children's Literature Alive, Portland, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
You know what they say: "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." When Lucy hears wolves crinkling, crackling, sneaking, creeping, and crumpling in the walls, she futilely attempts to warn her family. Once out of the walls, the wolves proceed to dance "wolfish dances up the stairs and down again" until Lucy, with the help of her stalwart pig-puppet, decides that enough is enough, and leads her family back-into the walls. Gaiman does here for the older picture-book set what he did for middle-grade readers with last year's Coraline, crafting a tale of surreal and sinister adversaries who are bested by a young girl's determination to set her world to rights. The slyly deadpan text, rich in language and wordplay, never doubts Lucy's capacity to manage the chaos, but McKean's illustrations are something else again, their mixed-media creepiness giving the lie to the publisher's disingenuous "all ages" designation and marking it clearly as not for the faint of heart. (Picture book. 7-10)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Gaiman has one creepy imagination. Hand this to a jaded third or fourth-grader and watch their eyes get big.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Gaiman has one creepy imagination. Hand this to a jaded third or fourth-grader and watch their eyes get big.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380810956
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/26/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 191,614
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman has written highly acclaimed books for both children and adults. He has won many major awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula, and his New York Times bestselling novel The Graveyard Book is the only work ever to win both the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) Medals. His books for readers of all ages include the bestselling Coraline, also an Academy Award-nominated film; Fortunately, the Milk; Odd and the Frost Giants; and The Wolves in the Walls. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in the United States.

Dave McKean is best known for his work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels and for his CD covers for musicians from Tori Amos to Alice Cooper. He also illustrated Neil Gaiman's picture books The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, and Crazy Hair. He is a cult figure in the comic book world, and is also a photographer.


Neil Gaiman thought he wrote comic books. But a newspaper editor, of course, set him straight.

Back when he was riding the diabolical headwinds of his popular series of graphic novels, The Sandman, the author attended a party where he introduced himself as a comic-book writer to a newspaper's literary editor. But when the editor quickly realized who this actually was -- and the glaze melted from his eyes -- he offered Gaiman a correction tinged with astonishment: "My God, man, you don't write comics, you write graphic novels." Relating the story to theLos Angeles Times in 1995, Gaiman said, "I suddenly felt like someone who had been informed that she wasn't a hooker, that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Gaiman's done much more, of course, than simply write graphic novels, having coauthored, with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, a comic novel about the Apocalypse; adapted into hardcover the BBC miniseries Neverwhere about the dark underworld beneath the streets of London; and, inspired by his young daughter, put a horrifying spin on C.S. Lewis' wardrobe doors for Coraline, a children's book about a passageway into a magical, yet malevolent, land.

But it is The Sandman that is Gaiman's magnum opus.

Though he had told a career counselor in high school that he wanted to pen comic books, he had a career as a freelance journalist before his first graphic novel, Violent Cases, was published in England in 1987. DC Comics discovered him and The Sandman was born. Or reborn, actually. The comic debuted back in 1939 with a regular-Joe crime fighter in the lead. But in Gaiman's hands the tale had a more otherworldly spin, slowing introducing readers to the seven siblings Endless: Dream, Death, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (once Delight). They all have their roles in shaping the fates of man. In fact, when Death was imprisoned for decades, the results were devastating. Richard Nixon reached The White House and Michael Jackson the Billboard charts.

Direction from newspaper editors notwithstanding, to Gaiman, these stories are still comic books. The man who shuttled back and forth between comics and classics in his formative years and can pepper his writing with references to Norse mythology as well as the vaudevillian rock group Queen, never cottoned to such highbrow/lowbrow distinctions. Comparing notes on a yachting excursion with members of the Irish rock band U2, the writer who looks like a rock star and Delirium and the rock stars who gave themselves comic-worthy names such as Bono and The Edge came to a realization: Whether the medium is pop music or comic books, not being taken seriously can be a plus. "It's safer to be in the gutter," he told The Washington Post in 1995.

In 1995, Gaiman brought The Sandman to a close and began spending more time on his nongraphic fiction, including a couple of short-story collections. A few years later he released Stardust, an adult fairy tale that has young Tristan Thorn searching for a fallen star to woo the lovely but cold Victoria Forester. In 2001, he placed an ex-con named Shadow in the middle of a war between the ancient and modern dieties in American Gods. Coming in October 2002 is another departure: an audio recording of Two Plays for Voices, which stars Bebe Neuwirth as a wise queen doing battle with a bloodthirsty child and Brian Dennehy as the Angel of Vengeance investigating the first crime in history in heaven's City of Angels.

Gaiman need not worry about defining his artistic relevance, since so many other seem to do it for him. Stephen King, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison are among those who have contributed introductions to his works. William Gibson, the man who coined the term "cyberspace," called him a "a writer of rare perception and endless imagination" as well as "an American treasure." (Even though he's, technically, a British treasure transplanted to the American Midwest.) Even Norman Mailer has weighed in: "Along with all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time."

The gushiest praise, however, may come from Frank McConnell, who barely contained himself in the pages of the political and artistic journal Commonweal. Saying Gaiman "may just be the most gifted and important storyteller in English," McConnell crowned Sandman as the most important act of fiction of the day. "And that, not just because of the brilliance and intricacy of its storytelling -- and I know few stories, outside the best of Joyce, Faulkner, and Pynchon, that are more intricate," he wrote in October 1995, " but also because it tells its wonderful and humanizing tale in a medium, comic books, still largely considered demimonde by the tenured zombies of the academic establishment."

"If Sandman is a 'comic,'" he concluded, "then The Magic Flute is a 'musical' and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a skit. Read the damn thing: it's important."

Good To Know

Some fascinating factoids from our interview with Gaiman:

"One of the most enjoyable bits of writing Sandman was getting authors whose work I love to write the introductions for the collected graphic novels -- people like Steve Erickson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Mikal Gilmore, and Samuel R. Delany."

"I have a big old Addams Family house, with -- in the summertime -- a vegetable garden, and I love growing exotic pumpkins. As a boy in England I used to dream about Ray Bradbury Hallowe'ens, and am thrilled that I get them these days. Unless I'm on the road signing people's books, of course."

"According to my daughters, my most irritating habit is asking for cups of tea."

"I love radio -- and love the availability of things like the Jack Benny radio shows in MP3 format. I'm addicted to BBC radio 7, and keep buying boxed CD sets of old UK radio programs, things like Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. Every now and again I'll write a radio play."

"I love thunderstorms, old houses, and dreams."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portchester, England
    1. Education:
      Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2007

    Wolves in the Walls:games,jam,and sticks.

    I read this to my child,since she asked for it many a night.It makes for a good story to tell before bedtime,and we may need a new book,from being read too much,since the spine is losing its grip on the pages.Lucy hears noises that her family misses entirely,blaming rats,and when the truth comes out she was right,there's no rubbing it in just how to take back what is rightfully theirs.I'd say this is a story about how a young girl inspires her family to fight to get their home back from jam-and-toast loving wolves.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2003

    Wolves in the Walls-Unique bedtime story.

    After recently reading the Sandman series and given that I'd heard that this was coming out,I read it to my daughter,who has requested it daily.The story of Lucy,who has more insight to the safety of her home against her parents,who say she's reacting to an overactive imagination and hearing things;that she eventually rallies them to take action to remove the wolves altogether.I'd recommend this book to anyone who has felt the need for something different at night.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome Book

    The artwork is beautiful and the story is fun.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012


    I bought this with my iPhobe Nook app. I wasn't able to listen to the story on my phone or my Nook. Feeling kinda ripped off.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    Beautiful artwork... Poor story

    It's a real delight to flip through & look at the pictures: They're fabulous! Unfortunately, the story is rather boring & vague... My 2 kids were a little puzzled... (...what???) Not the type of story you would read more than once. Too bad!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 29, 2010

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    Posted August 1, 2009

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    Posted September 3, 2009

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    Posted November 18, 2008

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    Posted June 27, 2011

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    Posted November 8, 2009

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