The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

by Mac Barnett (Author) Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

This is a story about a duck and mouse who get swallowed by a wolf, and then decide to live in his belly.

Early one morning a mouse met a wolf
and was quickly gobbled up.

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it's pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf's unchecked gluttony. And there's something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . .

With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Barnett's collaborations with Klassen often draw humor from knowledge withheld. Readers giggled because they knew Triangle was up to no good, and they saw the giant diamond that Sam and Dave missed while digging. In this big-hearted, gleeful caper, everyone shares the laughs. A sweet mouse with pink ears encounters a wolf in the forest. He escapes, right? Wrong. The wolf gobbles him up. Which is awful, right? Nope. It's surprisingly comfortable inside the wolf. In fact, a duck is already in residence. "Where did you get jam?" the mouse asks over breakfast. "And a tablecloth?" It's the wolf who suffers. "I feel like I'll burst," he moans, as the mouse and duck feast over a candlelit dinner. When a hunter closes in on the wolf, help comes from an unlikely place (and gives new meaning to the phrase "inner resources"). Klassen trades the spare look of his Hat books for a softer, more painterly style. Much of the action plays out against the warm, walnut brown wash of the wolf's insides; Klassen lingers on the soft grays of fur and feathers. The domestic trappings of the wolf's interior provide laughs (there's a full kitchen and record player, the mouse gets hold of a hockey stick), as do touches of Gallic elegance (the mouse and duck dress for dinner, and there is wine). The story's timeless, fable-like feel is bolstered by its traditional cast and old-fashioned fairy-tale language: "Oh, woe!" cries the wolf. "Oh shame!" Life can turn the tables pretty quickly, Barnett suggests, and only those whose outlooks are flexible will flourish. "I may have been swallowed," says the duck, "but I have no intention of being eaten." A rare treasure of a story, the kind that seems to have been around forever. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 2 - When a little mouse gets gobbled up by a hungry wolf, all seems lost until he makes an unexpected friend in the belly of the beast: a duck that may have been swallowed but has "no intention of being eaten." Indeed, life is not so bad inside the wolf. There's a comfortable bed, a grand dining room table, and a fully functional chef's kitchen. As the duck explains to the bewildered mouse, "You'd be surprised what you find inside a wolf." No longer do these small creatures worry about being devoured; they can sit back and relax in their confinement. They even conspire to get the wolf to down some good wine and cheese. Their wining and dining soon gives their host a terrible stomachache, attracting the attention of a hunter. Suddenly, all three lives are at risk and the new friends must act quickly to save themselves—and their safe and swanky new digs. Barnett's shrewd wit and subtle sense of irony come across expertly in short, snappy sentences, while the repeated refrain of "Oh woe!" and the pourquoi-tale ending lend the story a folkloric tone. Klassen's mixed-media art has a collagelike quality; the main characters and set pieces appear as cutouts placed against richly textured backgrounds of deep browns and black, with golden touches of pink and ocher, adding to the sense that readers are watching a dramatic play unfold. VERDICT Reminiscent of classic animal fables, with this winning team's signature humor and charm, this is a first purchase for any picture book collection.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse...[is] funny, with morbid senses of humor that will hit Halloween sweet spots...It turns out the wolf's gut harbors the best party in town, and some readers' sympathies might shift toward the carnivore—aided by the great Jon Klassen's droll paintings; no one does perturbed animals better.
—The New York Times Book Review 

Readers will laugh out loud at the cunning duck's skills at getting exactly what he wants from the bemused wolf. Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen—who previously collaborated on Triangle and two Caldecott Honor books, Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole—are an ideal team for readers who like a little quirk in their picture books. The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse is, like all Barnett-Klassen collaborations, distinctly funny, imagination-stirring and lovely to look at.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers (starred review)

It's a story packed with funny details—from the knives and candles of the duck's wolf-belly home to the makeshift warrior gear the duck and mouse wear when charging the hunter. The dramatic dialogue is entertaining (there are several utterances of "Oh woe!"). And the amorphous dark shadows of the forest are beguiling in Jon Klassen's hands...Mac Barnett and Klassen do it again, bringing readers a story they'll wolf down.

Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett is the author of several books for children, including Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which won a Caldecott Honor and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, both also illustrated by Jon Klassen; and President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Mac Barnett lives in California.

Shawn Harris is an artist and musician who began his career by doing record and poster art for his band, the Matches, in 2003. Since then he has created art for musicians such as Adele, Snoop Dogg, and 311. His first picture book, Her Right Foot, was written by Dave Eggers. Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, a picture book written and illustrated by Shawn Harris, was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 2022. Shawn Harris lives in Morongo Valley, California.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2017
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred
New York Times

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