________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005



Dawn Richardson. Illustrated by Bob Richardson.
Manotick, ON: Penumbra Press, 1985/2003.
110 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 1-894131-24-X.

Subject Heading:
Wolves-Juvenile fiction.

Grade 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4



"...how long will Smoke stay with us?"

"Smoke!" exclaimed Nelson. "I thought..."

David interjected, "It's not really a name, Dad, it's her colour...ya see, don't you? She must have some way of knowing her self."

"He's right to some degree, Nelson, the little fella may stick around for a year or more. Of course, on the other hand, maybe she'll leave as soon as she is well enough to run." Turning to David, Leo said, "Yes, I believe I know what your father said and I know too, how hard it is to prevent liking an animal that's around you for very long. There's no harm in that...just be ready when the time comes for it to leave, because that pup will leave and nothing will stop her, short of tying her up. To tie an animal born of the wild, well, to them that's worse than dying."


First published in 1985, this coming-of-age novel has been reissued to take its place among YA fiction that reflects society's attitudes toward the wild. The story is set in the 1980s on a remote lake in northern BC, where a 15-year-old Metis, David Nelson, lives with his Cree mother and English father. The isolated lifestyle suits David who takes schooling by correspondence and enjoys visits with his nearby cousins. His father rescues a starving wolf pup, and David's determination to save Smoke sets him on an emotional collision course with future plans that will take him away from home to complete his education to become a vet. From the opening drama on a wind-swept lake, David's courage and maturity are tested over the course of two years as he copes with the discovery that change is inevitable.

     The story is told in a highly readable style, rich in details of the northern lifestyle and First Nations lore. As explained in the epilogue written by the late Dawn Richardson's husband, Bob, the book was prompted by a wolf cull program. Through this story of human/wolf co-existence, the author hoped to encourage compassion and understanding among young readers for the natural world. Speaking through David's Grampa Bird, she passes along the conservationist philosophy of her father, naturalist Grey Owl. While the poignant ending may be predictable, the impact of the final, brief scene is by no means diminished. Bob Richardson illustrated the book with pencil sketches.

     Readers who enjoy realistic animal stories in authentic Canadian settings will find a satisfying read here.


A freelance writer and former teacher-librarian, Gillian Richardson lives in BC.

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

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