Zoo life, the mysterious ways of wolves, a new friend who turns out to be a runaway, and a hiking adventure deep into the wilds of Yosemite in search of John Muir’s lost cabin – put them all into one book and you have Elise Broach’s exciting new title: The Wolf Keepers. Here’s the jacket copy synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Lizzie Durango and her dad have always had a zoo to call their home. Lizzie spends her days watching the animals and taking note of their various behaviors. Though the zoo makes for a unique home, it’s a hard place for Lizzie to make lasting friends. But all this changes one afternoon when she finds Tyler Briggs, a runaway who has secretly made the zoo his makeshift home. The two become friends and, just as quickly, stumble into a covert investigation involving the zoo wolves who are suddenly dying. Little do they know, this mystery will draw them into a high-stakes historical adventure involving the legend of John Muir as they try to navigate safely while lost in Yosemite National Park.
This was a lovely story about friendship and trust, and the backdrop of Yosemite and the fascinating yet tangled issue of releasing wolves into their natural habitat made this a hard-to-put-down adventure story as well.
I adore everything Peter Brown writes, so I was especially keen to read his first middle grade novel, The Wild Robot. This was such a beautiful and unusual story to lose myself in: haunting, moving, and unforgettable. Here’s the jacket synopsis:
Can a robot survive in the wilderness?
When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.
At the heart of this story is the unlikely way in which Roz comes to become a mother to Brightbill: first as a caretaker to the solitary egg she is able to rescue, and then to the duckling who emerges and demands both love and guidance. Is a robot capable of either? Well, Roz discovers that she is capable of that and so much more, and in doing so she becomes a character we grow to love as well. Brown’s illustrations grace the book perfectly, adding just the visuals the reader needs to help imagine the world of the book. Here’s a fascinating post Peter Brown wrote about what moved him to write “a robot nature story”. I imagine many wonderful classroom conversations about the lessons learned from Roz and her fellow island dwellers.
I chanced upon A Hound’s Holiday at an art show, and fell in love with this charming holiday story, written in verse by Kim Spensley. Old Bowser the dog is left at home while his family pack their sleigh with holiday fare and drive off through the snow to share a holiday feast. But Bowzer will not be left aside so easily, and he manages to free himself and gallop off through a New England winter in search of his family…and the feast. Heather Bellanca’s enchanting scratchboard artwork brings warmth and delight to each page, and add just the kind of Christmas season nostalgia one always looks for at this time of year. A treasure of a book!