I spent a lovely reprieve from my world of picture books last week to read The Wolf’s Boy by Susan Williams Beckhorn (Disney Hyperion, 2016). I am more than glad I did. I read this book with the dissecting eye of a children’s writer and yet, I was not able to stay on the edge looking in. I landed smack in the middle of Beckhorn’s world and Kai’s life and was happily immersed. Not only could I not pace myself, reading as much as I could at a sitting, I also lamented its ending. I wanted more. I suspect (and hope) this book will find fans beyond its middle grade target audience.
The Wolf’s Boy will appeal to anyone who likes to root for the underdog (in this case, a boy with a disability) and anyone interested in the evolution of man’s best friend. While very little of the science of this evolution is explained, it is not necessary, nor missed. The story carries itself and the reader inherently grasps the underlying mechanisms that made such a transformation from wild animal to devoted friend possible. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story set in prehistoric time and simply a delightful read.
I wish I had a young reader with which to share this story now. When I read children’s books I often think of classroom applications. Obviously reading The Wolf’s Boy could lead to explorations in the evolution of the dog and comparisons between our understanding of prehistoric times and how closely Beckhorn followed such understanding in the creation of her setting and plot. Less concretely, readers could engage in discussions on inclusion regarding disabilities and the ethics of a society placing limits on those deemed less fit, or the consequences of superstitious beliefs. I am sure there are more applications that are not readily coming to mind. I am equally sure that if I were still teaching, I would read this book with my students – perhaps dedicating a special day to it because I’m really sure I’d have trouble stopping.