The Complete Polly and the Wolf, written by Catherine Storr, illustrated by Marjorie Ann Watts and Jill Bennett
originally published in 1955-1980; collected and reissued in 2016 by The New York Review Children’s Collection
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Polly who, like all children, had some Great Fears and one of her fears was of the wolf who was certainly hiding under her bed.
So Polly’s dear mother chased away that Fear by telling her some marvelous bedtime stories in which Clever Polly utterly outwits a befuddled wolf every time. The more ingenuous the wolf becomes in his ploys to eat her up, the more deft Polly becomes at outsmarting him. This girl is one smart cookie!
That mother, Catherine Storr, published the first set of stories, entitled Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, in 1955. Subsequent stories were published in a couple of volumes, and they’ve all been collected here for your enjoyment.
These tales are full of humor. Yes, this wolf is bad. Audacious. Wicked! Indeed, he plans to climb into Polly’s bedroom “before it’s light tomorrow morning, crunching up the last of [her] little bones.” Like every good fairy tale, the danger lurking out there is dark and toothy.
At the same time, he is immensely gullible, so easily traipsed along on a tangent, hoodwinked by the astute Polly at every turn. It’s a ticklish pleasure to watch Polly bait him with some innocent conversation. His vanity and gnawing appetite for juicy little girls get the best of him every time and zip-zup, with one sleight of hand Polly makes his plans fall to pieces.
The stories begin fairly simply and grow in length and complexity. They are illustrated with zesty ink drawings that fairly pop with personality. With its feisty, female protagonist, these stories would make a lively read-aloud for brave children ages 5 or 6 and up.