JOURNEY Based on the True Story of OR7 The Most Famous Wolf in the West by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Robin James. Little Bigfoot, imprint of Sasquatch Books, Seattle WA, 2016.
When a young girl, Abby, hears that a wolf has ventured from Oregon to California—the first wolf in California since 1924—she becomes fascinated by his journey. The wolf has a collar and is named OR7, the seventh wolf to be collared in Oregon. Thirteen months after receiving the collar, he leaves his pack, and people begin keeping track of him. Many are excited to have a wolf heading to California. But when Abby gets on the website where people are tracking him, she discovers that some do not like the idea of a wolf coming to California.
Abby “…scrolled down on the screen and read comments from other readers. Many people were happy about the wolf. But others were afraid, and that fear was turning to anger. ‘That wolf better keep away from my farm, or else,’ one comment read.
Abby knew what that meant. The wolf was in danger. Was there anything she could do to help?”
When a conservation group sponsors a contest asking kids to name the wolf, Abby jumps at the chance. With a real name, OR7 will be too famous to harm.
Journey is a fascinating true story of one wolf’s solitary venture far from his original pack. Journey travels three years and almost 2,000 miles in search of a mate so he can establish a family, a pack of his own. It is also a fictional story of a little girl’s determination to help make the wolf “too famous to harm.”
Robin James’ lushly illustrated pages alternate between Journey’s story, from his point of view, and Abby’s. Journey’s pages beautifully depict the Pacific Northwest as a vast, untouched wilderness, while Abby’s pages show her determination to track and protect the wolf. Her zeal will ring true with many young readers who’ve maybe felt that same desire to protect some little piece of wilderness near their own homes. Children have a natural desire to want to create and work on projects that mean something, particularly when it comes to helping animals. Abby’s character is empathetic and engaging. When the contest organizers choose her name—Journey—for the wolf, OR7 becomes famous all over the world. Abby’s cousins in New York call her, as well as her grandparents in Mexico. OR7, aka Journey, really does become “too famous to harm.”
The final pages have a timeline and map of the wolf’s journey, as well as real photos of Journey and his pups. Also included are discussion ideas taken from the teacher’s guide, which is available on-line. This book should be in every K-5 classroom. Besides being a good story that kids will love, it’s an invaluable resource that cuts across many subject areas, from language arts to science. It’s not easy to write non-fiction that engages kids. Smith accomplishes that by threading Abby’s fictional story throughout. It’s a unique approach and works very well.
Journey received the 2016 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA) best book for children from Northland College in Ashland Wisconsin. The college chooses three books each year on Earth Day in the categories of Adult, Young Adult and Children. View all the winners at this link: https://www.northland.edu/sustain/soei/sonwa/
Thanks Stephanie. Great review. This week we will welcome the Sonwa adult book winner to Ashland and the second Children’s book conference occurred a few weeks ago. I really appreciate your reference to the SONWA website as we hope posting will help connect folks to good books as well as encourage publishers to cont submitting quality pieces. I am forwarding this to the sig Olson institute director to inform him of your website and review. Hope you find HAWK as it is a very timely book. Perhaps the publisher?.. we need to get this one in libraries.
Looking forward to lots of reading this winter. Keep in touch! Jan
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