CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 8 . . . . October 23, 2015
Most wolves dream of running, playing and hunting, but the wolf in this story only wants to watch other animals. He observes the caribou, wolverines, and owls. He admires these beautiful creatures and desperately wants to be like them. Filled with love of the Land, the wolf stands alone on a hilltop and thinks to himself, "I'm just a wolf." How can he be like these other animals?
He gathers fallen caribou antlers, wolverine hair and owl feathers. With the power of the Land, these parts of other animals become parts of his body. However, these changes make it impossible for him to hunt for food. In despair, he returns to the wolf pack. "At first, his brothers and sisters laughed at his crazy appearance. But they soon felt sorry for him." They try to help him by giving him food, but he is too embarrassed to take it.
The wolf is starving and very much alone when the mother of the wolves comes to him. She comforts him and reassures him that his desire to look like other animals is admirable, "You cannot admire beauty by becoming it." Slowly, the Land undoes all the changes in the wolf, and, with the help of his brothers and sisters, the wolf is healed!
The wolf learns a powerful lesson about life. By trying to imitate other animals, he cannot enjoy being a wolf. When he takes on the characteristics of the caribou, the wolverine and the owl, he can no longer provide food for himself. He will starve because of his desire to reject his "wolf" nature. His fellow wolves laugh at him when they first see him, but they immediately feel pity for him and want to help him. Their help finally makes him realize that being true to one's own nature is the most important thing in life.
The illustrations contribute a great deal to this picture book. The use of earth tones in brown, green and ochre reinforce the wolf's desire to be part of the Land. However, when he transforms himself into another creature by taking parts of other animals, the colours change to black and grey. He has made a terrible mistake! The use of white for the wolves is in stark contrast to the Land. The wolves may be part of the Land, but they are also unique.
Lesson for the Wolf could definitely be used as a read-aloud while more independent readers could read the book on their own. Discussion topics could include: individuality, wolves, the environment of the North, and Inuit folklore. Readers will learn about a wolf who explores his identity and comes to the realization that "He was a wolf - and that in itself was admirable."
Myra Junyk is a literacy advocate and author in Toronto, ON.
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