A wolf whose life is disrupted by culling struggles to survive in this picture book.
This is not a picture book for very sensitive young readers. Its subject matter, shooting wolves from helicopters, is raw. The story is told from the viewpoint of Spur, a young wolf who lives with her brother and their pack. Lacking food in the logged forest, the pack begins to travel to an unlogged grove in the mountains, when a “thunderfly” attacks. Aoyagi’s chilling double-page spread shows the ominous shadow of a helicopter hovering over the pack, and after the page turn, another double-page spread shows a bullet whizzing by Spur. Spur is struck in the paw, and the pack scatters. Alone, Spur eventually comes upon another wolf pack, which welcomes her, and readers learn about pack social structure as Robertson describes how Spur helps mind the young pups to gain trust and to pay her debt. Spur’s new pack begins to make its way to unlogged ground using the gravel logging road, and Aoyagi’s illustrations effectively contrast harmonious shapes of the pristine natural world with jagged shapes in the illustrations of logged forest, log trucks, and another helicopter. When the thunderfly comes again, Spur warns her new pack, and they reach the high ground safely, where Spur is reunited with her brother.
A commendably effective and unvarnished presentation of wolf culling, for readers who are ready for it. (author’s note, resources) (Picture book. 5-10)