When Wolves Howl
When Wolves Howl
This entry into a rather crowded field of children’s nonfiction books about wolves, one of North America’s most intriguing creatures, is presented in picture book format. It is laid out as a narrative in which individual wolves of a particular pack are named and described by their place in the pack’s hierarchical order. There are a few instances where the writer flirts with anthropomorphization, but, in general, the structure is an effective one.
The Alpha male and female of the pack are Night and Snow. The pack includes a new litter of pups as well as the young wolves which are the previous year’s offspring. Haze is one of these young wolves, and he appears to have not developed into the hunter that his brothers and sisters have become. When it is time to go in search of food, Haze is left behind.
Night leads his pack with powerful steady strides. Ravens trace
their route above the treetops. Night bound toward a lakeshore
where the hoofed ones often gather.
On this occasion, the wolves are unsuccessful as the deer do not appear. But later in the day, a herd of mountain sheep comes down to the lake to drink, and the wolves pounce. Readers are not spared the grisly details of the kill, one which feeds both the pack and the scavengers waiting nearby. There is regurgitated meat for the new pups, too.
Young animal lovers will enjoy the action and suspense of the pack’s hunting forays and the way Haze fends off a rival wolf pack to protect the puppies left in his care while the others are off on a subsequent hunting expedition.
Haze noses the little ones under a fallen log and paces
nervously. Now the outsiders bound toward Haze and the pups.
When they arrive, Haze leaps into their path and leads them
away from the pups. They chase after him, nipping at his heels.
One wolf slams into him, and the others trample him.
Then they hear the approaching howls of Night’s pack
and disappear into the dark.
The pack find the injured Haze and cosset him back to health. He has redeemed himself and takes up a more prominent position within the family.
Georgia Graham has illustrated books she has written herself (Where the Wild Horses Run; http://umanitoba.ca/cm/vol18/no15/wherewildhorsesrun.html Strongest Man This Side of Cremona https://umanitoba.ca/cm/vol5/no16/strongestman.html), as well as a number of books by other authors. Her text is descriptive but matter-of-fact and not especially poetic in its language. The choice of a grey, brown and blue palette with shadowy backgrounds of mountains, trees and water makes readers part of the scene. A few of Graham’s wolves seem to have oddly elongated bodies when shown side on, but the double spread where the members of the pack lift their massive heads to “howl in harmony” into the night is glorious.
When Wolves Howl could be used as a group read-aloud either for its dramatic storytelling impact or as part of a primary classroom unit on mammal behaviour.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.