Is ‘The Wolf Who Cried Boy’ Only For Older Kids?

Why did I make The Wolf Who Cried Boy for older kids? I’ve received feedback that the book is too “brutal” for 2nd through 4th graders. A recent review noted, “Wonderful images but often dark and scary not for tiny tots or children of a nervous disposition,” which is totally fair.

My intention was to match the tone of the older versions of the Aesop’s fable, which often ended with the little boy dying. There’s even a version where the boy does in fact see a wolf each time he cries out, but the noise of the villagers’ approach scares the wolf away. The final time, when the villagers don’t respond, the wolf continues to approach and kills the boy.

Obviously, I toned down the story greatly in The Wolf Who Cried Boy. The Wolf doesn’t die and repents. The final scene also shows that the Shepherd Boy got a happy ending, although the fact that he’s still a shepherd as a young adult was meant to imply that he was being punished for his youthful indiscretions by not being given a better job.

As for my artwork, my original imagery idea for that page with the sheep was to show the wolf pack latching onto and biting into the sheep. But I figured that depicting them leaping toward the sheep got the point across while also looking epic.

I also tried to make the climax scene not bloody by simply implying that Wolf is getting hit by some of the arrows by showing his scars in the subsequent pages. While my target demographic is older kids, I also wanted the book to be accessible to mature younger kids.

The overall goal was to create artwork that would appeal to tweens and grade schoolers. That’s why I drew inspiration from Nordic fairytale art when creating this book. While this art style is more detailed than the simple artwork preferred by young children, I believe the flat shading makes the art more approachable.

Another factor I considered was the grade level of the readers. My writing process begins by first outlining the plot and then I write the details in a normal storytelling format. I have my Beta Readers group go over the story and give me feedback. Once all the major details are settled, I then convert the story into rhyming prose.

Since this book was targeted at older kids I focused on enhancing the storytelling impact. As such, I used words that a 4th grader might not understand.

I’m a big believer in enriching a child’s vocabulary. Also, parents are more likely to read a book to 2nd through 4th graders, so I’d hope they’d explain the meaning of the words.

But the choice of vocabulary was mostly an ancillary motive (look that up if you don’t know what it means!). The real reason I made the book for older kids is that they are often being trained in post-modern ideologies. They’re taught to believe that truth is relative and that you can “have your own truth” so I wanted to write a story that discussed the importance of truth in stark terms.

While post-modernism is definitely outside the scope of the book, I’m hoping that parents and kids will finish reading and have a greater respect for truth. It’s a good starting point for parents to discuss heavier topics with their kids.

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