________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004


Wolf Pack.

Edo van Belkom.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2004.
181 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 0-88776-669-2.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

** /4


The doctor squinted at first, not sure what he was seeing. But then he said, "Oh my God!"

In the distance, four kids, almost adults really, were stripping out of their clothes, and then - it was almost too incredible to believe - began transforming themselves into wolves.

When they were all - Doctor Monk still couldn't believe it - changed, they bounded off into the forest together, as if they were all members of the same pack.

"Please," the doctor said. "Please tell me that you got all of that on tape."


When Garrett Brock, a forest ranger in the small British Columbian community of Redstone, stumbles upon four tiny wolf cubs whose mother died saving them from a terrible forest fire, he can't just leave them to perish in the wilderness. He brings the four creatures home, and he and his wife prepare a warm bed for their guests. Imagine their shock when Phyllis goes to check on them and discovers four human infants where the wee wolf cubs had been!

     Thus begins Edo van Belkom's lupine tale. The story then fast-forwards fifteen years, and we meet the four adopted Brock youngsters as teenagers. These siblings share a close bond with one another but somehow struggle to truly fit in with their peers. Their shared secret, the reality of their part human, part wolf identities, sets them apart from other teens in many subtle (and some not-so-subtle) ways. But at least they have each other - until the day that Doctor Monk and his television crew witness the four youngsters transforming from wolves into humans.

     The opportunistic doctor plots to capture one of the wolves and make his fortune from the fame that he will achieve as a result. The wolf that he and his men ensnare is Tora, the lone female of the group, and her brothers are beside themselves with rage and frustration. While Ranger Brock does everything in his power to secure Tora's release (without betraying her identity), it ultimately falls to her three wolf brothers to devise and implement a plan to save her.

     Despite the fact that these wolf teens are also capable of transforming into werewolves, this book does not really fall within the boundaries of horror fiction. More so, it addresses issues of belonging, of family bonds and of humanity's relationship to the natural world. Doctor Monk's selfish and greedy desire to entrap and study one of the wolves for his own personal gain, and the disturbing way in which he was able to influence the politicians and people in authority so easily, provide food for thought. The fact that people like Ranger Brock and Sergeant Martin, people who have a healthy respect for and appreciation of the importance of protecting the creatures of the earth, were so powerless in this situation calls attention to some sad realities. This novel definitely provides an opportunity to consider modern societies' attitudes toward the animal kingdom.

     The way in which the author also sought to make this a story about teens trying to find acceptance amongst their peers in spite of their differences was a good idea. However, that aspect of the story was perhaps not as well developed as it might have been. It may have been helpful if the story had built up a little more gradually to the ensnarement of Tora so that readers had had a chance to get to know the characters a little more intimately and to have learned more about some of their experiences with their schoolmates prior to this incident. It also may have been, in part, because of the writing itself. The book is written in a very dispassionate, observational style. It did not capture a very wide range of emotions, nor did it build up to a very suspenseful or dramatic climax. Moreover, the author seemed to explain too much instead of allowing the events of the story and descriptions of the characters (their thoughts and feelings) to lead readers to their own conclusions. The story could have benefitted from richer descriptions to create a stronger sense of mood and to help readers feel for, and with, the characters. However, the book is not a difficult read with its straightforward, uncomplicated plot and characters, and it is a brisk-moving plot that can hold readers' interest through to its resolution. It may have limited appeal in a school library, given that it isn't really horror but yet has enough hints of horror that it may put off other readers.

Recommended with Reservations.

Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.

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

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