In this Arctic tale, a wolf discontented with his own nature tries on other animals’ features, with dismal results.
Rather than run and play like other wolves, the subject of this apparently original story prefers to spy on caribou, wolverines, and snowy owls. He so envies them that he even collects shed antlers, wisps of long fur, and a dropped feather. So heartfelt is the song he sings of his yearning that with the “Land’s Strength” he is actually able to attach all of these to his body. But then he returns to his pack and discovers that he fits in even worse than before. In fact, his new patchwork features impede his ability to hunt and eat. Away he wanders, wasting away until the “mother of the wolves” comes to him. She coaxes him to return and to live as a wolf. With his pack’s love he is able to undo the changes, healing in both body and spirit. Echoing the narrative’s formal cadences, all of the creatures in Cook’s muted, windswept tundra scenes pose gracefully. The sinuous white wolf cuts a particularly noble figure and so looks all the stranger when decked out in his borrowed finery. But he is never seen as ridiculous, only misguided, and all ends well: “He was a wolf—and that in itself was admirable.”
A gentle alternative to Bernard Waber’s “You Look Ridiculous,” Said the Rhinoceros to the Hippopotamus (1966) and other self-acceptance tales. (Picture book. 6-8)