Monday, November 28, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Wolves Of The Beyond by Kathryn Lasky

About Book I: A wolf mother has given birth, but the warm bundle snuffling next to her brings only anguish. The pup, otherwise healthy, has a twisted leg, and the mother knows what the harsh code of the pack demands. Her pup will be taken from her and abandoned on a desolate hill. The pack cannot have weakness - the wolf mother knows that her pup is condemned to die.

But alone in the wilderness, the pup, Seeker, does not perish. This his story - a story of survival, of courage, and of love triumphant. This is Seeker's story, the wolf pup who rose up to change forever the Wolves of the Beyond. --Goodreads

First Line: Before she even felt even the first twinge in her belly, the she-wolf set out to find a remote birthing den.

What Others Are Saying: "Though this story begins slowly, the tension steadily builds and readers will find themselves captivated midway through as they question how one wolf can survive without the pack to protect it. Even those who typically shy away from animal stories will be drawn in to the adventure, and many will forget that the story is about a wolf as Faolon's journey captivates. Book One of the "Wolves of Beyond" series." Jeanna Sciarrotta Children's Literature

About Book II: The wolf pup Faolan was born with a twisted paw, a slight defect that caused his wolf clan to abandon him in the forest to die. But Faolan, with the help of the grizzly bear who raised him as her own, survived.

Now he's made it back to his clan and as a gnaw wolf, the lowest ranking pack member. And the hardships are just beginning. Another gnaw wolf, Heep, is jealous of Faolan and sets him up for failure. As if these humiliations are not enough, Faolon is framed for the murder of a wolf pup. Faolan must catch the culprit in time and prove he has what it takes to be a full member of the pack. --Goodreads

First Line: There was a time in early autumn when the moon cut the night like the thin curve of a caribou antler.

What Others Are Saying: "As in Lone Wolf (2010), Lasky favors spirituality, rituals, and observances over action, although the gaddergnaw, as well as a murder accusation, keeps the plot trucking. The returning theme of child abandonment will hit kids where they live. Grades 5-8." --Daniel Kraus for Booklist
What I Thought: This was part of my study of series and I'm so glad I chose it. In 
the first book of the series Lasky spends a good portion of the book creating the world that her characters will inhabit. I especially enjoyed the spiritual aspects of the society, rituals, beliefs. It is immediately apparent that Lasky has researched wolf behavior. I think compared to the second book the first lacks in tension because of all the set up that needs to happen before the world of Faolon will be understood. In the second, I loved the hierarchy of the pack and the details that Lasky interjects smoothly without getting out of character. Lasky is a master of description and I was totally transported into the world of Faolan. 

Cover Art: You may have recognized the covers from the Ga'Hoole series. As with those the eyes say so much about the characters. I think that Cowdry does a great job of capturing Faolan.

Illustrator Richard Cowdry: "Fundamentally, illustration is artwork used to clarify or illuminate an idea or concept. Creating a successful illustration is a process of collaboration between illustrator and designer, a process of directing and taking direction, of concepting and exchanging ideas, and completion of final artwork."

Author: Kathryn Lasky
Interview on

Who: Kathryn Lasky was born in Indiana and likes to say she was, "born on the prairie instead of the suburb." It sounds more interesting to her. She was labeled "a reluctant reader" which she claims wasn't very accurate. She was bored with all the See Dick Run books and preferred the books her mother read to her like Peter Pan. So she began making up stories, though she didn't share them or write them down.She now lives in Cambridge with her husband photographer and film maker, Christopher Knight. They have two children. -- More here.

When: Lasky's mother was very supportive and was the first person to recognize that Kathryn should be a writer.  “I still don’t really know when I began thinking of myself as a real writer. It might have been relatively recently – like when I first got paid for a manuscript. But that might have been only when I first dared to call myself a writer to the world at large. I think that perhaps I always felt that this was my profession, announced or unannounced, paid or unpaid. I have always been a writer.” -More here.

What: Lasky's interests as a writer range far and wide. To do research for her nonfiction books, she's been everywhere from a sheep-shearing farm, to a dollmaker's workshop, to a small sailboat crossing the Atlantic, to an archaeological dig in South Dakota. She likes writing fiction too, because she can focus on the characters. "I want young readers to come away with a sense of joy about life," she says. "I want to draw them into a world where they're really going to connect with these characters." --Houghton Mifflin

How:  "People are often surprised when they find out how much research I do for fantasy books such as The Wolves of the Beyond. They think it's fantasy, so anything goes. But I have to convince the reader that these are real wolves if I am going to dare him or her to plunge in and join their adventure. I have to know and really understand the natural history of a wolf before I can depart into the fantastical.
With The Wolves of the Beyond, I began with all kinds of books. I consulted titles ranging from beautiful photographic essays for the coffee table to highly technical works written by behavioral scientists specializing in wolf biology, behavior, ecology and evolutionary history. And then I found a fantastic video game, the first ever video game I've played in my life. It's an ingenious role-playing game." -Kidreads Interview 

Writing Advice: "The most important thing is if a story is real. Even in my nonfiction books, telling a story is more important than reciting the facts. I am sure a lot of folks must think I'm rather scattered doing all these different books. But to me, the whole point of being an artist is to get up every morning and reinvent the world." --Houghton Mifflin

Book III

Book IV

 Book V will be out in 2012.

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  1. If there is one thing I've learned so far about doing intensive research for fantasy, it's the more you know about your subject the more believable your fantasy gets. These series would be a very interesting read.

  2. This series sounds like just the kind of thing my daughter would love (and I hadn't heard about them), so thank you. This is such a thorough review.

  3. A thorough review indeed! I'm usually not a great fan of animal books, but you may have persuaded me to give these a try.

  4. I love that last line ... the whole point in being an artist is to get up every morning and reinvent the world. So true!


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