________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 9 . . . . November 3, 2017


The Wolf Is Back.

Robert Priest. Illustrated by Joan Krygsman.
Hamilton, ON: Wolsak and Wynn, 2017.
92 pp., trade pbk., $10.00.
ISBN 978-1-928088-29-5.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Inderjit Deogun.

**** /4


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.

In a mirror

In my brain

I can feel it
When you feel pain

That's empathy

      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.

And that itself is victory

But more is yet to come

When adults all around the States

See what the kids have done

A hundred and eighty cities ring

With chants and demonstrations

Huge crowds converge on Washington

From all across the nation

They march, they sing, non-violently

Sit down in streets en masse

Within a year the federal bill

For civil rights is passed

      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.

They leave Whapmagoostui

It is fifty-three below

With one cold mile behind them

A thousand more to go

In snowshoes and mukluks

Like their ancestors before

They pull sleds and toboggans

They are idle no more

      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.

Highly Recommended.

Inderjit Deogun is a communications professional in Toronto, ON.

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