In a clever twist on the well-known fairy story Little Red sets off to catch a wolf. Her mum isn’t too worried about this plan as wolves disappeared long ago. Hunting for wolves isn’t so easy though and as Little Red goes deeper into the wood it becomes shadowy and quite scary. Finding a welcoming door she is surprised to actually meet a wolf and also a bear and a lynx. They are friendly but rather hungry with only acorns to eat. They tell her about the good old days when the forest was much bigger and food was plentiful. Little Red shares her packed lunch with them and they help her get home safely. But Little Red is determined to help them and decides more trees are what they need. Mum helps her to plant some, but sadly they will take a very long time to grow.
There is lots to talk about in this ecological story, both about the impact of the loss of woodland habitats on wildlife and in the detailed, often amusing and sometimes quite moving illustrations.
We’re delighted to have been sent these sketches and illustrations by Mini Grey, click on each to enlarge.
Mini Grey talks about raising awareness and making things happen with picturebooks
When I began The Last Wolf, I was vaguely thinking about Red Riding Hood and wondered: what if, instead of taking that basket of goodies to Granny, Red is in the woods because she wants to catch a wolf? But could she actually find one? In England, wolves were probably extinct by 1600, and in Scotland by 1680.
But the great thing about making picture books is that you can make anything you want happen…so I thought – What if there was ONE wolf left, the Last Wolf? And what if he was living quietly in a tree? And what if he wasn’t alone? What if in the tree were the Last Lynx and the Last Bear too? They’re all animals we USED to have in Britain but are long extinct now. In the UK we have lost just about all of our larger wild animals. Beavers, otters, pine martins, lynxes, wolves, bears – all driven to extinction or near extinction. I wanted the Last Wolf to have a feeling of what’s been lost, but also that it can come back if we make more habitat, and if we are more wildlife-tolerant; otters and beavers are now returning. Trees are fantastic habitats because they are so multi-layered, and we can have them in our gardens, towns and cities. More trees please!
Also, Fairy Tales really owe wolves a favour – Fairy Tales I think are extremely responsible for making the wolf into a monster!
Loss of woodland and impact on native species
A few years ago an announcement came out in the news. According to the WWF Living Planet report, since the 1970s more than half of the wild vertebrate animals on Earth had quietly disappeared. Half of our animals are missing! – how could we have been so careless? And those were the big, visible animals. In a more recent study from Germany, 75% of flying insects - the insects on which everything else depends - were found to have vanished in 25 years. Things are quietly disappearing – why are they disappearing? Underneath the major driving factor is habitat loss.
If we protect habitats and make more, we can make it easier for all our wildlife.
But the utterly brilliant thing is that increasing our nature by reforesting and rewilding is one of the most effective ways of reducing atmospheric CO2 – and helping us win the battle of climate change. Nature can be our climate-change crash mat if we defend, restore and re-establish forests, peat lands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems.
The great thing about picture books is they often involve an adult and a child reading together – so the picture book message can be for everyone of all ages. A picture book might not change the world, but it can change your mind. Books are a fantastic delivery system for ideas, and every book you read will change your mind a bit. The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane – has had an incredible impact. There is a feeling of enormous urgency developing about protecting our world, and with Greta Thunberg and the Kids Strike for Climate we can see that it doesn’t matter how young you are – you have a voice and you can call politicians and leaders to account and ask them hard questions about the Emperor’s New Climate.
There are so many brilliant environmental picture books I think children and parents know nature is precious and needs protecting. So, it could be time to make a list of picture books every policy-maker should read….
Share the story
Read the book aloud pausing to talk about what is happening in the story or illustrations when your child wants to.
When you re read the story children can join in with parts eg Little Red saying ‘I’m off to catch a wolf’ and the punch lines in bold eg ‘bin bag’ ‘tree stump’ ‘last wolf in the land’
Talk about the story
Other stories like this – children might mention Little Red Riding Hood or other stories with wolves in.
Share favourite pages in the story
Talk about the illustration of the endless miles of forest. What animals can you see? Your child can look for the wolf, lynx and bear and also a badger and woodpecker amongst others.
Look through the illustration of the last woods. Talk together about what is different and what might have happened to the woods.
Things to make and do
Play the story
What would you need to go hunting to catch a wolf? Dress up as a hunter and try lurking, stalking and slithering through an imaginary forest. To be a hunter you have to be very quiet, creeping without being heard. You could make this into a game like ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ with one of you as the last wolf.
Go for a woodland walk
Go for a walk in the woods or park if no woods are nearby. Look out for different trees, which are the oldest, youngest. Can you identify any from their leaves? See here
If it is Autumn you could look out for acorns or other seeds such as conkers. Stand very still, can you hear any birds?
Grow a tree
See here. If you look after it carefully and it starts to grow into a sapling you could think about where to plant it together.
Make a poster
Look at the wanted posters in the book at the beginning and end. Make your own wanted poster for more wolves, other animals or more trees. Children could cut out letters from a newspaper or magazine to make the words, arrange and stick them on a piece of paper and then draw their illustration.
Make a tree house for the Last Wolf
Mini Grey creator of The Last Wolf and Lovemybooks patron has created a lovely resource on her website with templates and instructions to make your own tree house for the LastWolf.