A modern-day fable intertwines the stories of a young boy and an old wolf.
Like all good fables, this one tells its story with minimal characterization and unabashed moral messages. Wolf Nashoba, an aging pack leader, is desperate to find food for his starving band after the long winter, especially since the brash young wolf, Garby, questions his leadership. Meanwhile, Casey, a just-turned-13-year-old human boy who excels at the video hunting game “Bowhunter,” is thrilled when he receives a real bow and arrow for his birthday. Nashoba’s and Casey’s stories collide when Nashoba leads a hunt—helped by wise, acerbic raven Merla—near Casey’s home. Casey, searching for a stray arrow, comes across Merla, who is helping Nashoba, injured during the hunt. On instinct, Casey shoots Merla and then is shocked as he realizes the finality of real-world killing. Although the animals speak to one another in quoted dialogue and exhibit humanlike thought processes, animals and humans do not enjoy mutually intelligible speech. The fable’s messages—touching on false pride, the facile violence of virtual reality, age and youth, the coexistence of species, the value of kindness, and a few others—are inevitably diluted by being so numerous, but happily, they offer gentle provocation for thoughtful readers. Floca’s black-and-white pencil illustrations, with their attentive, appreciative depictions of the natural world, add real depth and poignancy to the story.
Overall, a fine tale that will benefit from being sifted for all its meanings. (Fiction. 8-13)