The wolverine is part of the weasel family, like skunks, ermines, badgers, and otters. It is the largest weasel that lives on land. Wolverines have a skunk-like appearance, but with a bulky body, short, strong legs, and large claws. The wide neck of a wolverine is very strong and well-muscled. The fur of a wolverine is mostly black with a whitish ring that runs from one shoulder down to the tail and around the other side of the animal to the other shoulder. This ring of fur can be pure white or brown in colour. Wolverines are known for their musk, a stinky spray that they use to keep other animals away!
Wolverine is one of the titles in Inhabit Media’s “Animals Illustrated” series. It is a very fine introduction to the wolverine, describing its behaviour, diet, reproduction, and other fun facts about this northern animal. Part of the description situates the wolverine into its broader Arctic ecology: not only what it eats and how it gets its food but also how Inuit people have eaten (at one time) and use wolverines as part of their survival.
The illustrations by Patricia Ann Lewis-MacDougall are thoughtfully detailed, unsentimental without being overly technical or scientific, a perfect combination for introducing and educating young readers to the beauty and reality of these animals in their habitat. She uses lots of browns, greys and off-whites, evocative of the Arctic environment in which the animals are found.
Similarly, Allen Niptanatiak’s words faithfully describe the wolverine, providing useful facts and details about all aspects of this animal, striking a good balance between enough detail for readers to understand what truly makes this a distinctive creature without overwhelming readers with too much detail. The level of language may be somewhat challenging for younger readers (5 and 6)¬the size and spacing of the text is also geared to a slightly older reader-but where Niptanatiak uses somewhat more complex language, he provides an explanation (“Adult male wolverines are mostly solitary animals, which means they prefer to live alone.”); the illustrations also go a long way to supporting comprehension and connection with the text.
For animal-loving readers or those interested in learning more about wolverines in particular, the north, or the intersection of animals and Inuit peoples, Wolverine is a terrific introduction or starting point for a school project.
Joel Gladstone is a librarian and an editor in Toronto, Ontario.