Katherine Rundell (text), Gelrev Ongbico (illus.), The Wolf Wilder, Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin, Oct 2016, 256pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408854853
A beautiful, heart-warming book, The Wolf Wilder explores the journey of Feodora, a girl who teaches wolves how to become wolves again.
Feodora lives with her mother in a remote town in Russia. They are happy living away from humans, doing what they do best, being wolf wilders. A wolf wilder is someone who trains wolves to become real wolves again after being kept as pets by the aristocrats of Russia. When the rich people get bored with their wolves, they send them to a wolf wilder because they believe it is the ultimate in bad luck to kill a wolf.
While many believe that Feodora is a witch or a scary girl that is almost wolf-like, the reality is that she is actually a kind-hearted brave little girl who is independent and self-sufficient even at such a young age. But her world collapses when the power-hungry General Rakov blames her and her mother for the wolf attacks around the area.
Rakov burns down their house and takes Feo’s mother away, putting her in jail, on death row. Feo, together with her three wolves, a wolf pup and her new friend Ilya, travel together to get to her mother before Rakov kills her. But the journey is not that easy when you have soldiers hunting you and a snowstorm that could freeze your eyes.
On the way to rescue her mother, Feodora meets many people who are inspired by her bravery. Although her goal is to save her wolves and her mother, she ends up giving strength to the many residents suffering under Rakov and unwittingly starts a revolution to topple the corrupt general.
The Wolf Wilder’s new 2016 cover carries a lot of praise from reviewers and I can understand why. It is a beautiful story of love between mother and child, between humans and animals, between friends. It is a tale of endurance and perseverance. The protagonist doesn’t even realise just how amazing she is until others point it out to her.
I must warn young readers to brace themselves though, especially if they love animals. There are certain heart-breaking moments when her wolves are hurt by the soldiers Rakov sends to find her. Overall, this is a book worth reading, and a beautiful read at that. Feodora is an inspiring character, brave, funny and persistent, but also a vulnerable child. This book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Kristyn M Levis