________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 11. . . .November 13, 2015


The Wolf-Birds.

Willow Dawson.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids, 2015.
40 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-054-4.

Grades 1- 5 / Ages 6-10.

Review by Andrea Boyd and Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



From strongest to smallest,

everyone feasts in turn, filling

bellies and beaks.



caching treats.

Stretching, then turning towards home.


Children in Early Years learn about the characteristics and needs of living things. Willow Dawson’s The Wolf-Birds demonstrates the ways in which wolves and ravens interact with each other. This book, set in the wild winter woods, gives readers a glimpse into the natural world and the fascinating relationship that exists between the two species. Ravens earned their title as wolf-birds due to their social attachment with wolves. Given their aerial vantage point, ravens often call wolves down on prey. The ravens then benefit by having the pickings leftover after the wolves have eaten their fill.

internal art     The lyrical word choices soften the harsh nature of the story, though the illustrations show the reality of the hunt. The artwork was created using acrylic-on-board paintings. The paintings are reminiscent of well-known Canadian artist Ted Harrison. The bold and bright palette is Harrison’s, as are the broad brush strokes and swirling, rounded shapes. Dawson’s use of colour deliberately reflects the events transpiring in the story. On the pages where the predators capture their prey, red is featured as the dominant background colour whereas the background colours of the other pages mainly reflect snow white and clear skies.

      This is a story of animal symbiosis, resilience, and survival in nature. Dawson wrote The Wolf-Birds based on scientific data and anecdotal reports from Aboriginal hunters. The book features an Author’s Note providing more information on how the ravens got their nickname, details on symbiotic relationships, a bibliography, and directions to an online list of recommended books about wolves.

      Some will find the content disturbingly harsh. Some will think that young readers might be put off by the injury and death of animals within the story. On the other hand, others will think such content is an appropriately accurate depiction of the brutal realities of nature. Similarly, some will find the artwork lacks detail and attraction for a young audience. Again, on the other hand, others will find the highly stylized artwork vibrant, engaging, and attractive. The Wolf-Birds is a book that will appeal to some but not all. Indeed, we two reviewers initially had quite different responses in terms of the quality and appropriateness of the book for young children.

internal art      Dawson is an award-winning Canadian illustrator and cartoonist. She teaches Creating Comics and Graphic Novels at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Her book provides a simple introduction to the life cycle. Death and birth are both portrayed. An injured deer is run down by the pack and becomes the meal necessary to sustain the wolves and the birds. At book’s end, a litter of wolf pups and a raven sitting in a nest are illustrated. The endpapers neatly enfold the story. In the front, snow-bearing trees are depicted. The final endpapers show those same trees devoid of snow and with the buds of new life emerging.


Andrea Boyd is a student in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. She enjoys reading children’s literature and travelling around the globe.

Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents For This Issue - November 13, 2015
CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive