'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 11 August 2016

Review: The Wolves of Currumpaw

The winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal (for Shackleton's Journey), William Grill's newest creation is another explorative tale on the real life adventures of a wolf, and a man who tried to claim him.

Beautifully and evocatively designed, the story was inspired by Ernest Thompson Seton's Lobo, The King of Currumpaw (1898), and follows the trials of Lobo, king of the wolves, and the men who sought his hide.

Set in New Mexico, in the dying days of the Old West, Seton felt called to hunt and capture Lobo after the incessant failure of local hunters. The crafty wolf and his crew had slaughtered one too many livestock ... for over five years, they had reigned in terror over the Currumpaw valley, and it was time to put a stop to that reign. Every cattle baron and cowboy wanted Lobo dead. So much so, a $1000 bounty was placed on the wolf's head (an enormous sum at the time).
Seton ran his team of hunters with precision, carefully plotting and planning entrapment, but Lobo continued to evade capture. It wasn't until Seton targeted Lobo's great love--Blanca the white wolf--that he managed to claim his prize.

Yet, when he eventually claimed that prize, Seton underwent a life-changing transformation. Broken by his close encounter with the wounded wolf, he tied him up at the farm, perhaps hoping he would recover.

But Seton knew he would never survive. It wasn't the injuries from the traps that killed the wolf--but rather the loss of his love, and the loss of his freedom. Old Lobo simply had no reason to go on. The next morning, he was dead,

Seton was so moved by this experience with the grand old wolf, he spent the rest of his life spreading the message of animal conservation, wildlife protection and hunting laws. A great lover of the land, Seton also founded The Woodcraft League and the Boy Scouts of America.

Grill's combination of pocketed image and cinematic double-page spreads take the reader on true skin-prickling journey into the Old West, with languid colour washes and dynamic, sweeping line work. The balance between extreme detail and panoramic views beautifully evokes both a rich historical story and the simplicity and beauty of a land well before it laid its throat bare to man. Just like Lobo.

An important and beautiful book in too many ways to cover here.

Title: The Wolves of Currumpaw
Author/Illustrator: William Grill
Publisher: Flying Eye Books, $29.99
Publication Date: 1 August 2016
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781909263833
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book, Historical