Happy Halloween month, everyone! The day is getting shorter and the air is getting colder and a prospect of the second COVID wave is looming (sigh) but I hope you are well and safe. Initially I thought of Mary and Frankenstein: The true story of Mary Shelley by Linda Baile and, my favourite illustrator, Julia Sarda (Andersen Press 2018) for the obvious reason. But, I decided to share another beautiful book illustrated by Sarda instead. It’s The Wolf’s Secret written by Myriam Dahman & Nicolas Digard (Orchard Book 2020).
It’s a new fairy tale but it feels like it’s been told for centuries, thanks to Daham and Digard’s lyrical writing and the timeless story about difference, trust and friendship.
Wolf is a dark prince of the deep forest. He is the biggest wold ever born and feared by all the animals in the forest. But he has a secret. In the middle of the forest lives a young woman with beautiful voice. Every morning, the wolf secretly comes to the edge of the forest to listen to her enchanting singing.
But one day, she stops singing as she grieves for her father. The wolf longs for her singing and tries to fill the void by filling up his appetite but it doesn’t help.
He meets a wizard who tells the wolf how to get what he wants, but he warns the wolf that “every choice has a consequence”. The wolf gains a magical power to speak to the young woman but he loses his ability to hunt and feed himself. He asks the woman to sing for him in exchange of his company but he asks her not to turn around, not wanting to scaring her.
As fonder their friendship grows, the thinner the wolf becomes, and he eventually collapses. The young woman takes over the secret magical power and tells him “A secret is lighter when you carry it together.” And they find a ever-lasting companionship.
Julia Sadra‘s unique and retro-inspired illustration is a perfect paring for this fairy tale. Like in Sweep, another book illustrated by Sadra, I shared last October, her colour palette is perfect for autumn and it beautifully delivers emotional depth. And I love the way that the setting gradually transforms from autumn to winter, perfect for the peaceful ending. I also like the use of decorative borders to add the old book feel. Clever.
This as a beautiful love story about overcoming differences and making sacrifice for what you desire. This hardback gift book, with sumptuous cloth cover and gold foil detail, is perfect for lovers of fairy tales and fables.