Some Books About Wolves

Hello world, it’s been a while! Life in library-land has been hectic lately, and I’ve been reading like crazy for the Rocky Mountain Book Award Committee. (Coming very soon… possibly even after the meeting tomorrow… the 2009 shortlist! Also coming soon, some of my favourites from all our potential nominees.) But in the meantime, I’ve read a couple really cool books lately about wolves which has lead to this totally arbitrary collection of books.

Wolves by Emily Gravett is about a rabbit reading a book. But wait! This is no fluffy bunny bedtime story! You can see from the library card tucked into one of the pages that he’s signed out Wolves (by Emily Grrrabbit from the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library.) As Rabbit reads, he get smaller on each successive page, and his surroundings get substantially more… wolf-y. There’s some clever intertexuality going on here, and an alternate ending thoughtfully provided for more sensitive readers–though the observant will notice the overdue notice at the end of the book, hmm… The story’s relatively simple, but the sly humour makes this picture book a good read for older elementary school kids. Give this one to your favourite grade three kid who still loves picture books.

Wolf by Gillian Cross is an older UK import, set in Ireland. Cassy’s used to well-ordered life with her no-nonsense grandmother, when suddenly, her Gran packs her off to stay with her mother, Goldy. Goldy’s always been a drifter, and Cassy is appalled to realize that they’ll be squatting in an abandoned house with her mom’s boyfriend Lyall and his prickly teenage son. Goldy and Lyall are developing a performance art piece for schools about wolves, and Cassy is roped in to helping. But she’s also been dreaming about wolves–about her absent father, and Little Red Riding Hood. Why did her Gran send her away, and where is her absent father? Family tension with a touch of psychological thriller, the complex characters and skillful layers of meaning make this a good pick for thoughtful middle school readers.

Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Jinx, illustrated by Anne Soudvilas is one of those rare picture books that’s truly meant for older readers–and I mean teenage and up, not grades two and three. In a ruined city, Ben records his fear of the wolves (woolvs) and his dreams for a long-ago blue sky. The phonetic spelling, reading as if it were carefully sounded out by someone unused to writing, and the ominous charcoal illustrations work together to create a bleak, post-apocalyptical future with an ambiguous ending. Because of the story that’s being told, and the amount of reading between the lines, I’m sneaking this one in with the graphic novels for teens and adults (and putting it on my list of YA books about the end of the world), and hoping it finds its audience there. Try this for something successfully innovative and different.

My last two wolf books are off my ever-growing to-read pile and are both adult fantasy. St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a short story collection by Karen Russel, and A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, are both fantasy, and “grown-up” books. But in the meantime, let’s see if I can make it through four more potential award shortlist books before tomorrow night at 7:15 pm…


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