Since the release of William Grill’s stunning debut Flying Eye Book (after which he became the youngest winner of the Kate Greenway Medal since 1960) the picture book world has been highly anticipating a follow up title - and now it has arrived and The Wolves of Currumpaw most definitely does not disappoint.
What’s most striking when you first see either of William’s two Flying Eye Books (or the activity book he produced in between) is his stunning illustration style. Created completely by hand, each artwork contains equal measures old-timey rustic charm and modern personality. In order to educate with a storybook it is key first to captivate one’s audience and The Wolves of Currumpaw does so brilliantly. Jumping from small thumbnail sketches to large, dramatic landscapes, the book brings together elements of comic book art with those of a classic picture book to create a unique visual narrative. Add in the energy which comes with William's sketchy and spontaneous style and the story intensifies, becoming a rare beast - the educational thriller.
After an illustrator has found success with their first picture book release, I am always fascinated to see how they will tackle the daunting task of a sequel - stick with the successful formula or produce something in complete contrast to their debut? Whilst The Wolves of Currumpaw stays within the same category as Shackleton’s Journey - retelling a true story from history in a modern way - their is definitely a different feel to this follow-up. In many ways the tale feels much smaller than his first; Shackleton’s Journey followed a large group of brave men on an incredible adventure whereas The Wolves of Currumpaw is focused around one man’s hunt to capture one wolf. As a result of this downscaling, the book feels all the more intense and emotive. A true testament to William’s visual skillset, his powerful drawings hold much more heart than a big budget blockbuster ever could.
Much of the success of The Wolves of Currumpaw is thanks to the skilful juxtaposition of old and new. In the book, traditional mediums are used to create artworks with fresh style and lively personality and an old story with modern ramifications is told to great effect. This juxtaposition is true for William as an artist too and so it should come as no surprise that a fresh young talent with a keen interest in vintage tales has worked out the formula for a modern classic.