I recently reviewed Wulfie: Stage Fright by Lindsay J Sedgwick illustrated by Josephine Wolff , a charming story about families, friendship and being brave even when you’re afraid. The story features a young girl LIbby who finds a much needed friend in Wulfie. Although he gets her into some scrapes, he also is a staunch ally when she needs it most. Read the review here.
I’m really pleased to welcome author Lindsay to the blog today with a guest post about why everyone needs a Wulfie. Welcome to the blog Lindsay!
Everyone Needs a Wulfie
“It’s that simple. We all need friends, and every child needs a Wulfie.
That’s why he exists. It’s why he was created. So that every child diving into these books could imagine she was Libby and Wulfie was her best friend.
He’s a lot more loyal than many friends in the real world when you’re a child and he was invented for that very reason. For my daughter, also called Libby, who really, REALLY wanted a best friend.
She was four when Wulfie first appeared. I was sitting on her bed trying to make up stories for her. He was the explanation as to why we always had 17 odd socks – Wulfie was eating the ones that vanished before they ever made it to the washing machine. He could grow and shrink, he was purple and he loved her more than anything. He also kept getting her into more trouble, despite his intentions being good.
He was incredibly nosy and impulsive, while she was just trying to get through the days without being blamed for stuff her brother did.
Every story was adlibbed on the spot, so if I ran out of steam or inspiration, I’d ask Libby to give me three words – an object, a mood, a place, a sound …. and use those to make up a fresh adventure for the duo. It got to the point where she wouldn’t let me take the short cut of reading a book to her – it had to be a new Wulfie story.
They weren’t always very good, but the central relationship was always fun, if sometimes sticky, muddy, messy … Because Wulfie and Libby had to face adversity, jeopardy, fear, meanness, even true nastiness so that they would triumph in the end and Libby would go to sleep with a smile on her face.
Wulfie, we discovered, would eat anyone who was mean to Libby. And, yes, the fictional Libby would make him spit them out, but for a while after they’d be sniffing bums or chasing a tail they didn’t have, so there was payback! He was fluffy and scruffy and cheeky and mischievous. And, to begin, nobody knew he existed except her.
Stories started to take us through several nights, trying to find extra twists, extra obstacles, extra fun and slapstick. Pretty soon Libby was wishing Wulfie was real and I started writing notes after she’d gone to sleep ….
Wulfie, in short, was the ultimate best friend.
That this was the motor behind the series was consolidated years later when I asked her – then aged 7 – what a best friend was. We were waiting for the bus to town and she had been musing about how everyone else seemed to have one.
“Someone who would walk through flames for me,” she said.
As a parent, my heart sank. I admired her courage and ambition, but how could anyone live up to this? It’s no use as a parent to tell your child that they will meet that ‘best friend’ at some point in the future, probably. That maybe you’re more interesting and special and shouldn’t try so hard. When you see everyone else pairing up and forming groups, it makes you sad inside.
This is where books come in to keep us going. To allow us to dive in, to be an invented world with all sorts of friends, having adventures and eventually triumphing.
Like many writers, I was the child looking on at peers who seemed to more easily make friends. I was also a daydreamer who was almost always somewhere else in my imagination when I wasn’t meant to be. Writing essays that were condemned as being too creative. When I read books then, I reinvented myself as the characters, living through their adventures and friendships. I find it all too easy to remember what it was like as a child so when I write, I am my characters; talking aloud, twitching, being in the story with them and hearing their voices in my head.
Wulfie went through a few incarnations between then and now. My daughter is now 21, doing her final year in UCC. But it was set in stone back in those first days that Wulfie’s role was that to be the best friend ever, loyal to Libby regardless of everything and everyone else.
And yes, this does mean he’s going to get her into adventures and scrapes she might not have chosen, but with all of these, she gets stronger and more confident.
That was what I wanted for my daughter Libby, way back then, and for every kid I knew. I still do.”
Find out more about Wulfie: Stage Fright at www.littleisland.ie