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THE WOLF-BIRDS by Willow Dawson


by Willow Dawson ; illustrated by Willow Dawson

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77147-054-4
Publisher: Owlkids Books

A pair of hungry ravens helps wolves hunt during the winter starving time.

Dawson’s first picture book is based on observers’ reports of ravens alerting hunters—both humans and wolves—to potential prey. Her words and pictures reveal the stark circumstances of late winter. The ravens watch a wolf pack chase a buffalo; the buffalo gets away but not without delivering a fatal kick to one of the wolves. The hunt continues until the birds see an injured deer and summon the wolves. This second chase is more successful. “One animal’s life helps many others live.” The spare text is set on acrylic paintings with a vintage look. These stylized images are full of the curves and bold outlines of graffiti art yet at the same time are reminiscent of the work of Dahlov Ipcar. Their abstraction offsets the story’s harsh realism, which may still disturb a sensitive youngster. The colors, shades of brown, red-brown, and gray, suggest the drabness of winter; the action is shown both from a distance and up close in vignettes, full-page scenes, and double-page spreads. Dawson uses body language rather than visible blood to denote the dead. The thoughtful pacing of these illustrations demonstrates this artist’s experience with graphic storytelling. The text is less successful, with elevated, sometimes-awkward language that relies heavily on ellipses and works too hard to tell the story in a lyrical fashion.

An interesting, contemplative addition to the nature shelf.

(author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)