The winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal offers an atmospheric retelling of a 19th-century tale that helped to spark the wildlife conservation movement in this country.
Recast in simpler, less melodramatic prose from Ernest Thompson Seton’s 1898 reminiscence of a wolf hunt in New Mexico, the narrative pits Seton, an experienced hunter, against Old Lobo—a huge and canny pack leader with a legendary ability to detect human-laid poison and traps. Using colored pencils on rough, oversized pages for impressionistic effects, Grill intersperses scenes of broad cityscapes or distant wolves loping sinuously across wide-open desert landscapes with arrays of unbordered vignettes. His depiction of generic Native Americans clad uniformly in fringed buckskins and feathered headdresses in a sequence depicting the advance of white settlers is, to say the least, simplistic, but even in miniature the wolves throughout radiate a compellingly feral nobility. The end comes at last when, following the trapping of Old Lobo’s mate, he himself is captured and dies after a night in captivity. The original story stops there; here it carries on to note that the encounter led Seton to become an advocate for wilderness and wildlife, followed by others who have worked to preserve gray wolf populations.
The stereotyping is a definite gaffe, but the illustrations convey an intensity of feeling in keeping with the profound way the experience changed at least one man’s life. (resource lists) (Picture book. 8-10)