CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 9 . . . . November 3, 2017
Empathy. In a world filled with ever-growing chaos, it's an important lesson to be reminded of. And this is exactly where Robert Priest begins in The Wolf is Back, his newest poetry collection for young readers from Wolsak and Wynn. Though the 38 poems range in subject matter from the environment to injustice, the overall theme can be summed up in one word: Understanding.
The understanding that Priest aims to impart is not singular but comes in many forms. The journey starts with Priest focusing on the environment by taking readers atop the forest canopy and amongst the clouds to see the water cycle at work. But it's with "Where Are the Wolves" and "Return of the Wolves" that he goes deeper to show children that, in the natural world, there are consequences to our actions because everything is interconnected. Next, Priest examines what we are capable of as human beings. "What Kind of Bee?" differentiates between the wanna-bees, the one-day-I'll-bees and the I-can-bees. It's followed by "People like You and Me" which expands on this notion by highlighting that we, as people, come from a lineage of doers who did, and there's no reason why this generation can't do, too. Finally, young readers are ushered through the past with poems like "The Children's March" which displays quite powerfully that bravery has no age requirement. All that matters is doing because the actions of today have been proven to change tomorrow for the better.
Though the majority of poems stand on their own, some come in groups of two or three allowing Priest to eloquently expand on the central idea to tell a complete story. Furthermore, he offers notes on his poems at the back of the book that provide not only further explanation but also historical background.
As with Rosa Rose and Other Poems, this collection is illustrated with the poignant pen and ink drawings of Joan Krygsman. For parents and teachers, her pointillism technique will harken back to the paintings of Georges Seurat. But for young readers, those points may just feel more like stars giving life to the words of Priest.
At a time when we have moved our lives indoors vying for one screen after another, The Wolf is Back reminds readers there's a world outside just waiting for each one of us to make a difference.
Inderjit Deogun is a communications professional in Toronto, ON.