Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Wolf Story

Wolf Story

5.0 4
by William McCleery, Warren Chappell (Illustrator)

See All Formats & Editions

Take one young boy, his father and their bedtime ritual—a story. Five-year-old Michael has somehow managed it so that he gets to order up the basic ingredients of each night's story, whereupon Dad spins the tale and adds the embellishments. The only thing is, Michael doles out the same essential ingredients each time: a foppish wolf named Waldo and a hen


Take one young boy, his father and their bedtime ritual—a story. Five-year-old Michael has somehow managed it so that he gets to order up the basic ingredients of each night's story, whereupon Dad spins the tale and adds the embellishments. The only thing is, Michael doles out the same essential ingredients each time: a foppish wolf named Waldo and a hen named Rainbow. As bedtimes go by, the stories become more and more outlandish. Not only that, they spread out into the daytime, too! So what used to be bedtime ritual is now an anytime-he-can-get-his-Dad-to-squeeze-in-an-eipsode arrangement. And as the delightfully absurd story unfolds (and unfolds even more) we can't help smiling while whitnessing the eternal battle between good and evil as orchestrated by a five-year-old boy. It's no wonder that this endearingly funny and down-to-earth classic has endured for years.

Editorial Reviews

Riverbank Review
A charming romp wherein a sometimes flustered father must deliver fresh installments of a bedtime story about a wolf's quest for a multicolored hen named Rainbow.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-6-In this read-aloud version of William McCleery's Wolf Story (Shoe String, 1988), a small boy and a patient father take what began as a perfunctory bedtime story and massage it into a tale of greater proportions. After begging his father for a nighttime tale, Michael supplies his own elements leading to the story of Rainbow, a resourceful, courageous hen. She meets Waldo, a wolf who fits the pattern set by his predecessors of being persistent and threatening but not too bright. Later, the tale is continued at the beach and during car trips. Father, son, and a young friend mold the story to their own liking based on their moods and growing perceptions of what really should happen to these characters. Originally published in 1947, McCleery's story contains rich dialogue. Anthony Heald's expressive reading suggests the appropriate moods, from the father's playfulness at changing those timeworn stereotypes for the fun of it to Michael's intense insistence as he decides who will or will not be eaten. Heald's reading also underscores the father-child relationship as the two engage in shaping this oral masterpiece together. An example is Michael's father's patient, parentlike admonition as to why Michael should say "darn" rather than "damn" even though adults occasionally use it. This story will appeal to listeners who enjoy playing with story elements themselves. Teachers and librarians will find it an attractive selection for those listeners who enjoy a more subtle tale about characters having fun with a story.--Nancy L. Chu, Western Illinois University, Macomb
From the Publisher
"For the parent faced with a child consumed with the desire to hear the same story for the zillionth time, especially if it's a story with a wolf in it, joy has come with the reprinting of William McCleery's 1947 classic Wolf Story....I've loved this book for a long time, and it's good enough for a grown-up to read in silent pleasure, but it really springs to life when it's read out loud....Laughing and crying over made-up characters we know are made up, getting a kick out of it, and coming back for more is just one of those weird things humans do. And you can't start them too young." —Alexandra Mullen, B&N Review

“If you can get only one children's book this year, make it William McCleery's 1947 Wolf Story. This "underground classic" finds an inventive and exasperated father telling a wolf story to end all wolf stories (so he hopes) to his inventive and demanding young son. Dramatist McCleery perfectly captures the irritation, affection, tricks, admiration, and sheer surprise that pass back and forth between parent and child in everyday family life. It is in similar improvisational exchanges that we-adults and children-learn how to love.” —Commonweal
“’You can kill the wolf at the very end, but this way we can have more story,’ said Michael. The laughing child who listen will agree, for Wolf Story simply has to last forever. It is easy to imagine, from the natural conversational cadences and the impromptu unfolding of episodes, that the writing was no feat. But here is a little wok of art, funny, tender and captivating. To Warren Chappell, whose cleverly scratchy pen draws Rainbow and Waldo, Wolf Story also owes its attractive format.” —The New York Times
“There is an air of distinction to this book. It is a pleasure to have and to read. One parent told me that if she were to compile a list of ‘books for sitters’ (and wouldn’t that be helpful?), this book would lead all the rest.” —Christian Science Monitor
“This charming book, perfect for reading aloud at bedtime, was first published in 1947. It's about Michael, an engaging 5-year-old, and his father, and the story Michael orders his father to tell about a hen the boy names Rainbow and Waldo, a rather foolish wolf.” —The New York Times
Wolf Story had been out of print for a decade. I had loved it in the 1960s and so had the 6- and 7-year-olds to whom I read it over the course of a month. I still enjoy it. The story-within-a-story technique, peppered with dialogue, is used to good effect. Adults reading this aloud will recognize themselves. Children will, of course, identify with Michael's determination to mold the story to his taste. In the end though, Wolf Story is a celebration of a happy father-son relationship.” —St. Petersburg Times
Wolf Story is tough-minded, without sentiment and very clever. It may well have been this cleverness that split the reviewers down the middle when the book was first issued in 1947. However, in the laboratory test our 9-year-old loved it.” —The New York Times
Wolf Story will captivate both parent and child as a father regales his 5-year-old son at bed time with tales of a fierce wolf, the hen he wanted to eat, and the farmer who wanted to shoot the wolf. Interruptions—by enthusiastic son Michael add to the fun. So do Warren Chappell’s raffish pictures.” —Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Shoe String Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.53(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range:
4 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

William McCleery (1911–2000) was born in Nebraska and spent his early career as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. In the 1940s two of his plays were produced on Broadway, and he later wrote some dozen one-hour dramas for television. From the 1960s until his death he was affiliated with Princeton University, where he taught playwriting, founded the magazine University: A Princeton Quarterly, and edited several volumes of university history. McCleery was a trustee of the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire from 1948 to 1970, and it was there that he wrote Wolf Story for his son Michael.
Warren Chappell (1904–1991) was a graphic artist, book illustrator, and typographer. He illustrated many books for children and adults, including three in collaboration with John Updike; created two highly regarded typefaces, Lydian and Trajanus; and wrote several books on typography, among them A Short History of the Printed World.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Wolf Story 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this as a gift for my 6 year old, NYC-dwelling nephew, with orders that my brother read it to him, just as in the book the father makes up the story for his son. In addition to enjoying the adventures of Rainbow and Waldo, they also loved reading about the father and son traveling to places around NYC that they too had visited. I read the book too, and loved it. The hen vs wolf story was wonderful, and the flavor of the father-son relationship comes shining through.
StonyCreekCT More than 1 year ago
How wonderful to see this book back in print! I have a copy of the 1961 reprint that read to my children 20 years ago. Can't wait to give copies to my young neighbors (boys) for Christmas!!!
Azizza More than 1 year ago
This is a charming story. Dad is responsive to the boys. Setting is delightful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book to my son last year when he was 6 --- we've read it again twice since. He loves it... Fun to read-aloud and a wonderful story. A great early chapter book.