A Wolf Called Wander, by Roseanne Perry

I am still busily reading elementary/middle grade science fiction and fantasy for the Cybils Awards (the shortlists will be announced January 1, 2020, so the clock is ticking...), and although I do my darndest every year to read all the books in a timely fashion, there are still some that I didn't get to when they first came out.

A recent read I enjoyed lots is A Wolf Called Wander, by Roseanne Perry (Greenwillow, May 2019).  It's a story told from the point of view of a young wolf, Swift, whose happy pub-hood in the mountains tumbling around with his litter-mates comes to a horrible end when his pack is attacked by other wolves.  Injured and separated from his family, he sets out on his own to find a new place to call home.

It is a long and hungry journey.  A raven, working with him to find water and prey (this is something ravens really do, apparently), gives him some company, but Swift's longing for a pack is a constant ache.  Happily, after many hardships, he finds a female wolf, also on her own, and they begin a new life together.

Swift's story is based on the true story of a wolf who was tracked making the same epic journey (shown in a helpful map at the end of the book).  And Swift, though his thoughts are presented to the reader in human words, is very much a realistic wolf.  Not quite, though--there's just enough of "would a wolf really be thinking that" to push it just over the boarder from realistic to speculative fiction (side note--as a general rule of thumb, thinking animal books get put in Speculative Fiction in the Cybils Awards*).   The sense of Swift's character, and his keenly felt experiences, make it easy for the reader to journey right there with him, and as the pages turned my own fingers crossed tighter and tighter for a happy ending....

There's quite a bit of gore and violence that might be off-putting for the squeamish.  And there's one very sad wolf pup death.  But it's the sort of violence that does happen in the wild...

It will appeal to lovers of survival stories about kids on their own facing desperate circumstance (Hatchet, for instance), and any young (or even old) reader who loves stories of wild animals having realistic adventures will love it, and will appreciate the back matter about wolves as well.  If you have a young wolf lover in particular, pairing this book with the symbolic adoption of a real wolf, through the World Wildlife Fund, would be an excellent gift!

*more about thinking animals--almost all animal centered stories that come to my mind I'd put in fantasy, because they are from the pov of the animal, which requires the animal to be thinking coherently enough to propel a plot.  One exception is the original Lassie book (which I really recommend; there's no Timmy falling down a well); we are only in Lassie's head sporadically, and always from a slight remove, and her thoughts are instinct rather than human sort of reflection...What do you think?  Would you put, for instance, The One and Only Ivan in realistic fiction or speculative fiction?


  1. I wish I could answer your question. I may be the only person on the planet to have not yet read The One and Only Ivan. I do love both survivor books and animals books, so I will put this one on my TBR list. Thanks for the post.

  2. Hmmm, good point about thinking animals and spec fic. I haven't read The One and Only Ivan but I think I agree with your logic about the animal's POV. Even though the story may be otherwise 'realistic', I think reading from the POV of animal who thinks more like a human pushes a book into the realm of spec fic.


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