Kirkus Star


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On a campout in Maine, Boston social worker Jim Lucas and his houseful of five street kids from Project Turnabout hear the howling of a lone white wolf. At his small woodland zoo, animal lover Vinnie Boudreau can't stop his smart white wolf from getting out and robbing the neighbor's turkeys. With the sheriff coming for the wolf, Vinnie packs the animal into his camper . . . and loses him when he stops to change a tire in Boston. Tony DiNatale, a kid on the run, encounters the wolf on a Boston street and feeds it an Italian sub. Tony lands at the Turnabout house, and he and Lucas again run into the wolf and catch it in photos. Later Tony and Lucas meet with Vinnie in the paneled former library at the Animal Protection League headquarters (to Tony, ""it seemed strange that all this splendor had to do with stray dogs"")--where Lucas pleads for time to take the wolf with a tranquilizer gun and send it to Isle Royal wolf preserve. The ""Friends of the Wolf"" are given two days--and on the first night, Lucas and Vinnie accidentally kill a dog with the tranquilizing dart. (""Oh Gandolf. Oh Jesus God I don't believe this,"" mourns its bald, bearded owner.) In the confusion, Tony takes off with Lucas' van, cracks up the van, and disappears. ""You're not gonna get anywhere being easy on them,"" a cop tells Lucas. ""It's like, if you didn't get it from your mother or somebody when you were little, you never do. There's always going to be something missing. You can get attached to them, but they can't get attached to you."" Later when a wolf sighting is reported to Lucas at the home, it bothers him that he's still looking for an animal when Tony is missing. ""He's a human being, for Chrissake!"" ""You sweat stuff too much, know what I mean?"" says Sean, one of the boys. But Tony does show up later that night, at the hospital where Lucas lies badly wounded. He's gone into a rough neighborhood after the wolf and been attacked by vicious kids. The wolf is finally killed by a car, and as Lucas finishes burying him in the woods near the scene, ""From below came the voices of his kids""--having disobeyed Lucas' orders to go to school, they turn up in a borrowed car with a trunkful of cut hothouse flowers ""for the funeral."" ""You don't want to know [how we got them],"" says Jerry. And as they all drive back, bantering about a projected trip to Canada and stopping to remove a turtle from the road, ""Hey man, you always be the wolfman to us,"" says Sean--and you notice how Lucas and the kids have come together while their and your attention has been on the campaign to save the wolf. One of the joys of this positive human story is Kilgore's faith in readers' ability to notice what's going on and to pick up on passing exchanges and gestures. Another marvel is the authenticity of the dialogue--street kids', cops', Vinnie's--that leaves you wondering how she acquired her easy familiarity.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown