________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009


One Wolf Howls.

Scott Cohn. Illustrated by Susan Detwiler.
Mt. Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell (Distributed in Canada by Codasat Canada Ltd.), 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-607180-37-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4



Six wolves nap in a warm June meadow
snuffling, snorting, lost in their dreams.
Six wolves nap in a warm June meadow
deep in the woods by the bubbling stream.


Nine wolves hide on September hilltops
shy ones, sly ones, no one sees.
Nine wolves hide on September hilltops
deep in the woods in the falling leaves.


One Wolf Howls is at least four books in one. To begin with, it's a counting book with the number of wolves increasing by one on each successive double page spread. It is also a calendar book that commences with one lone wolf "howl[ing] in the January moonlight" and concludes with a wolf pack, consisting of a dozen wolves, "sing[ing] a December chorus." In a sense, it also is a "seasons" book as Detwiler's realistic illustrations reflect the seasonally changing flora. And One Wolf Howls is also a book of poetry as the text for each spread consists of a four line, two sentence, poem that has some repeating features, both internally and between poems. The first line identifies the number of wolves as well as the month, and the verb tells what the wolf/wolves is/are doing: howls, play, bark, hunt, peek, nap, trot, dance, hide, sniff, sleep, and sing. The word(s) connected to the month most often provide a mini weathercast for the month, eg. "February snowfall," "brisk March morning" or "April rainfall." The second line describes the wolves, usually in terms of what they are doing, while the third line is an exact repeat of the poem's first line The first four words in the poem's final line, "deep in the woods," are common to all 12 stanzas while the remaining words locate more precisely where the wolves are in the woods. The poetry uses an ABAB rhyme scheme.

internal art     Like most reviewers with an English, not Fine Art, major, I'm much more comfortable talking about a book's text than I am in speaking to a picturebook's art. Since I was most impressed by Detwiler's illustrations, I decided, with the assistance of a Google search, to e-mail her and to ask her what medium/media she used. Following is her reply in full: "For the illustrations, first I do a detailed pencil drawing on Strathmore 500 series cold press illustration board and then I use Yarka (a Russian brand) pan watercolors with gouache highlights. My favorite brushes are Winsor & Newton series 7. For more information, I did an interview with Stephanie Ruble about illustrating that can be viewed at: http://sruble.livejournal.com/84829.html. I do recommend reading the interview as it does provide more detail concerning how she created the illustrations.

      The book's five closing pages bear the collective title "For Creative Minds," and permission is granted to photocopy these pages or to download them from www.SylvanDellPublishing.com, with the latter also including additional teaching activities. The book includes a "Wolf Communications Matching Activity" and a "Wolf Calendar Activity" as well as two pages of factual information about wolves.

      With One Wolf Howls, younger readers, in addition to learning the months of the year, can practice the numbers from 1 to 12 by counting the "correct" number of wolves that are to be found in the spreads' illustrations. September will offer a special counting challenge as the wolves' locations are partly masked by the autumn leaves. Older readers might wish to focus on the "hard" wolf facts contained within "For Creative Minds." Teachers could utilize the poems' pattern as a template and have their students' create poetry focused on other woodland animals.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.

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

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