Friday, January 20, 2012

Where's the Big Bad Wolf? by Eileen Christelow

Copyright © 2002 by Eileen Christelow

Detective Phineas T. Doggedly does not hold the Big Bad Wolf in high esteem. He knows that the Wolf is a "low-down, no-good, chicken-chasing, pig-poaching rascal[]." Every time he is caught committing a crime, the Wolf is repentant and promises to behave, but his recidivism rate is 100%.

One day while Detective Doggedly is driving down the road, a sudden gust of wind blows by. It sounds similar to huffing and puffing - straw goes flying everywhere. Doggedly investigates, confident that he will find the Wolf up to criminal mischief, yet again.  Doggedly sees three little pigs in distress, their straw house destroyed.  He is flummoxed, when instead of the Wolf, he sees a sheep.  The sheep introduces herself as Esmeralda. When questioned about her presence, she explains that she happened to be walking by "just in time to rescue these delectable little piggies!"
The foolish pigs believe a tornado caused the destruction, but Doggedly knows better. He has no doubt that somehow the Wolf is involved. While he searches, Esmeralda, under the guise of being fearful of wolves, beats a hasty retreat.  Doggedly keeps searching and finally finds the Wolf at home. When he is confronted,  the Wolf claims that he has been home with the flu. Doggedly knows something is odd, "I just can't quite put my paw on what it is."
Later, upon the advice of Esmeralda, the gullible pigs rebuild their house out of sticks. When like the house of straw, it collapses under suspicious circumstances, Esmeralda the sheep is again at the scene of the crime, appearing to be helpful.
Doggedly believes that it is the Wolf's work, but again the Wolf has an alibi.  He is found in the hospital with flu-like symptons.
Heeding the advice of some elderly cows, and to Esmeralda's chagrin, the three pigs rebuild their third home out of brick. When there is an unsuccessful attempt to blow down this brick house, Esmeralda is seen fleeing the scene. As the aptly named Doggedly pursues her, he sees her climbing up a ladder into the same hospital room where the Wolf is supposedly recuperating. Esmeralda, the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, is caught and of course he promises to be good.  Once he has served his jail time, do you believe that he is indeed reformed? Well, soon a peculiar looking horse arrives in town and befriends the three little pigs. . .

This story and the illustrations are hysterical. My personal favorite is of the Big Bad Wolf,  feigning illness, wearing pig slippers and a bathrobe embroidered with "BBW." The illustrations also provide evidence that belie the Big Bad Wolf's protests of innocence. The kids like studying the illustrations and pointing out the clues. It makes them feel quite smug to be more clever than Detective Phineas T. Doggedly.

There exists a plethora of  retellings of the classic Three Little Pigs tale.  The retellings are usually from the pigs' perspective but more recently, some have been told from that of the wolf's. Eileen Christelow writes from a unique third perspective - that of a detective.  Where's the Big Bad Wolf? is by far the kids' favorite version. Ms. Christelow informed me that, of  the books she has written, it is one of her favorites also.


  1. Ha! There's something in the air - this is the second post I've read this morning about 3 little pig retellings. This too sounds like lots of fun. HOpe it's in my library system.

    1. Playing by the book,

      The story is really comical, I hope your library owns it also. Although the book has traditional text, it also has many speech bubbles like a comic book, which appeals to my oldest son who loves comics and graphic novels. Out of curiosity, what was the title of the first 3 Little Pigs retelling you saw today?

    2. :-( My library doesn't have it. But it does have the first retelling I read about - Frank Muir's The Three Little Pigs - and it is excellent. Witty and beautiful. I first read about it here: