The Wolf`s Boy ( Age : 9+ )
By : Susan Williams Beckhorn
Publisher : Disney Books ( June 2016 )
A beautiful tale unearthed from the prehistoric era during the stone age. The novel brings to life man`s earliest encounters with canines through the child protagonist Kai and his pup; the "yellow wolf pack" to Kai`s people, were actually early dogs according to Susan Beckhorn. Along Kai's journey, different levels of their relationship and how it affects the boy is revealed together with how he reaches the maturity to confront his difficult life. Lesser known unfamiliar settings of the story are cleverly introduced to the reader; one could easily be lost among those people of Kai`s tribe - who seem to have come from early Asian migrants to the Europe. They have a bit of technology, some traditions, basic skills of art, music and beliefs in hand. This information is skillfully tailored into the story through Kai`s thoughts, as he narrates us his - almost 40,000 years old- tale.
Twelve year old Kai with a club foot yearns to become a hunter, to hold a 'Keerta' ( a hunting weapon ) and throw it right at the target and to take pride in those hard earned meals just like his handsome older brother Sen. Instead, he has to do 'girl`s work', helping his mother with her daily chores. He is not taken into the boys group, and is laughed at because he is crippled and a 'Tabak' ( a curse ); he must never touch a Keerta or it would bring bad luck!. In a community where every person was given a sign, Kai has none . He has no identity as he is crippled, and is despised and insulted by everyone. He feels hurt by his elder brother Sen`s treatment of him as he remembers how they played together when they were small -when differences meant nothing.
The book presents us with a number of divergent characters which further uplifts the compelling effect. These people; Kai`s parents, his siblings, other boys in the tribe, Mir; the beautiful and cruel girlfriend of his brother, Vida the kind one, and the "Shaman" together weaves us a lively tale and assures that young readers will continue to read in fascination.
The first part of the book tells us about this lonely boy`s pains, fears and his struggle to find his place in his community. Kai`s unusual closeness to the yellow wolf pack is an aftermath of rejection, but Tal ( God ) seems to have different plans for him. Kai visits the yellow wolf pack often. They know him well. Upon the death of the mother wolf, Kai decides to take the weakest of the orphaned pups home, Holding his fears back he bravely enter their deep cave, but elder wolves does not challenge him. The wolf pup is named Uff by Kai and his siblings. Kai finds his comfort in the company of his wolf, but the wolf pup grows fast, and his people feeling threatened by Uff wants to be rid of her. When his handsome brother had a dangerous hunting accident, which leaves him with a scar, even his parents starts to doubt their decisions taken in the past; is the crippled boy really a "Tabak"? Meanwhile Kai packs up to leave the tribe.
The second part of the book brings us Kai`s heroic journey in search of his identity. They travel to the North along the "Forbidden River". A peregrination full of terrors and wonders. But his wolf lady stands by him, empowering him and guarding him . Their journey is a test of powerful friendship and bravery.
When he spots a great fish eagle with a single foot hunting a fish, Kai watches it in awe. The incident provokes his thoughts.... He moves ahead, with a newly made Keerta in hand. He carves his sign on it - an eagle with a single set of talons. He learns something new with every step ahead until he finds his true identity ......The fascinating discoveries of caves and the nature of the 'new world' may leave readers in wonder. His short encounter with an Ice-man ( Probably a Neanderthal) may provoke curiosity in readers.
The human cultural evolution during the prehistoric era is exposed to children admirably well with a remarkable touch of imagination through this, while revealing the amazing powers of determination. A book for all readers of all levels from average to talented, with the right amount of facts, easy to grasp; it enables the reader to dive in and explore a world beyond their touch! And a tale with many precious facets of rich literature. A must read!!
(With many thanks to Disney Books and Net Galley for the ARC in return for a honest review)