A young coyote tries to find his place in the world and develop his unique howling ability in the fourth children’s tale from MacAfee, the mother/daughter writing team.
Romer is a young male coyote who wants to be a dog, and his dream apparently comes true when he’s adopted by Belinda, a girl whose family has just moved to the area. Friendless, she doesn’t know the difference between dogs and coyotes. Initially, Romer is happy as a dog with Belinda and her family, but as he matures, he begins to have feelings of aggressiveness and disobedience he can’t control. Meanwhile, his coyote pack is being hunted by panicky humans who feel threatened by them. Under siege, the coyotes must decide whether to stay or go—a decision that is complicated by the death of the pack’s aged leader (Romer’s father, the Chief) and the resulting leadership vacuum. Romer runs away while he ponders things, and Belinda goes looking for him and gets lost. The authors have crafted a delightful yet meaningful story about needing to belong and not denying who you are—things to which kids in middle grades can surely relate. The writers display impressive knowledge of a coyote’s behavior, especially its song, but wisely don’t let it dominate the story; instead, they sprinkle bits of information throughout the book: “The average coyote can travel forty miles a day. In two days, your average coy could be out of this territory, and beyond the foothills. In five to six days, he could be in the high country.” The novel also contains an environmental message about man’s destruction of Earth as well as some fascinating Native American lore about how they viewed the coyote. Elsewhere, it sparkles with sly humor, as when the coyotes—who speak in English to each other—refer to their information source as the Coyote News Network. Maybe an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but in the authors’ capable hands, a young coyote certainly can.
Underneath this gentle tale is the powerful message of staying true to yourself.