LONE WOLF: BOOK TWO OF THE OLDENGLEN CHRONICLES
A twelve-year-old boy’s ability to communicate with animals may come in handy when revenge-minded bullies invade his family’s land in Mason’s (Oldenglen, 2015) middle-grade fantasy.
Although initially reluctant to leave his England home, Jackson Wolfe has grown to love Oregon. The Oldenglen estate where he lives is a magical place where the boy can understand the forest’s inhabitants. But while the woodfolk are pals, Jackson’s had less luck making friends at school. Bully Noah and his three cronies who form The Pack target Jackson after he sticks up for nerdy Daniel. When Noah instigates a tussle outside a library, Jackson momentarily unleashes the “wolf within,”  a transformation he thought would materialize only in Oldenglen. Jax the Wolf has amped speed and strength, with golden eyes the sole physical change -- but it’s his eyes that Noah may have witnessed. Now designating Jackson a freak, The Pack creeps into Oldenglen, where Noah boasts of knowing the area. Fortunately, Jackson has help, from the woodfolk who immediately spot the camping bullies to San Franciscan Sarah, who’s visiting the boy she’d befriended over the summer. With a hunting dog and gun, Noah poses a threat to Jackson and his woodsy companions, especially if he tells potentially-armed adults he’s spotted wolves or coyotes. So Jackson, Sarah, and the woodfolk make a plan to protect Oldenglen. This laudable tale is more exciting than the series’ first, which Mason co-wrote with his father. Handling exposition thoroughly but efficiently, the author dives right into the story to establish the new villains. Noah, et. al., even if mere eighth-graders, are genuinely scary; he and older brother Nate, in a discernible black truck, follow Jackson’s bus all the way home. Despite further distress (Jackson’s missing porcupine buddy Squiffle) and the occasional menacing animal (a bull elk literally looking for a fight), the narrative’s predominantly jaunty. The good guys, for one, are surprisingly skilled at psychological warfare, opting to disturb the bullies’ sleep and campsite, which results in hilarious directives: “Send in the moles.”  Jackson battles relatable issues, too, including loneliness, feeling like both wolf and human with no real pack of his own.
A morally-sound hero who earns sympathy and cheers as a champion of the wildlife.