Friday, January 8, 2016


Tor Seidler
Atheneum, 2015  227 pgs
Grades 4-6
Animal Fantasy/Adventure

Maggie is a magpie, who marches to the beat of a drum different from her other magpie brethren. She hates her unimaginative name, does not respond to shiny clutter, and resents being stuck in a nest brooding eggs. Her best friend is an old crow named Jackson who teaches her about the ways of the world. After Jackson's tragic demise at the hand of a human with a gun Maggie befriends a lone wolf named Blue Boy. The two initially help each other out and then become inseparable. The story now becomes Blue Boy's, witnessed through the eyes of Maggie, who is always there co-existing with the new pack Blue Boy forms. Maggie describes the trip from the ranch lands of Montana to Yellowstone National Park, where Blue Boy defeats another pack and establishes a new territory for his crew. We eventually learn the backstories of Blue Boy and the other wolves as seasons change, new wolves are born, and the circle of life takes several lives. Blue Boy's first born son, Lamar, who is expected to inherit the pack, finds himself attracted to a female coyote, which is unacceptable in wolf-culture, just as Blue Boy's estranged brother rejoins the group leading to inner-tensions. Meanwhile, one of the other males in the pack is planning a coup for leadership. After a chilling near-death incident involving a park ranger it looks like the pack will be dispersed and Blue Boy overthrown. It is up to Maggie and nature to put things to rights and restore the peace previously enjoyed by this group of companions.

Seasoned author Seidler dedicates this novel to Newbery winning author Jean Craighead George, who first introduced him to and educated him about the wolves of Yellowstone. Seidler lets his love and respect of these magnificent creatures shine through as we travel along on their adventures. Personally, I'm not an animal lover and certainly never gave wolves a second thought. I became fascinated in these animals and now want to learn more. Establishing Maggie as a narrator offers a further dimension to the story and makes for a richer tale, elevating the book to a significant cut above the usual animal fare. The book is described as "animal fantasy", but besides from the fact that animals can communicate through language with each other and other species (and how do we know they don't) this is really a realistic adventure story. Seidler is able to establish a separate personality in all of the wolves, as well as the birds, and I was never confused between characters. Themes such as feminism, family loyalty, environmental preservation, gun control, and mixed-race romance are all touched upon, although all subtly depicted through wolf culture. The plot is exciting and moves quickly. The print is big and the margins generous. Kids will enjoy reading this book and it should be recommended to both animal lovers and adventure seekers. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book. There are truly heartfelt moments where the reader really gets emotionally involved with these wild creatures. A deceivably emotional, educational, and thoughtful read all wrapped up in an exciting page-turning package.

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