In 2011, a wolf collared with a tracking device left his pack in northern Oregon, as young wolves do, and ventured south, becoming the first wolf to enter California since 1924.
In her fictionalization of his travels, Smith alternates OR7's story with that of a young California resident, a Mexican-American girl she calls Abby. Using internet data, Abby tracks the wolf on a map, and she submits a winning name, Journey, in a contest to make the wolf "too famous to harm." (In real life, the backmatter tells us, two children from other states were the contest winners.) The author imagines what Journey senses and thinks along the way. She includes his encounter with a motion-sensor camera, his temporary stay with a pack of coyotes, and his discovery of the young black female, also a wanderer, who became his real-life mate. They’ve settled just north of the border, raised pups, and started a new pack. James’ realistic, finely detailed paintings glory in every hair of the wolves’ fur. Journey’s trek is depicted on double-page spreads; for Abby’s experience, full-page images oppose pages of text, each with a relevant vignette. The backmatter includes an actual photograph. The text and its font size may be challenging for young readers, but the story will appeal.
For good young readers and patient listeners, environmental good news invitingly presented. (timeline, map, further web exploration) (Picture book. 6-10)