The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis

The Wolf’s Curse

Jessica Vitalis, Author

Greenwillow Books, Fiction, Sep. 21, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Death, Grief, Rites and ceremonies, Orphans, Wolves, Grandfathers, Fantasy

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The Wolf is not bound by the same rules as you are.

The Great White Wolf is very, very old. And she is tired. After living through 700 winters, she id searching for someone to take her place. But she is invisible to most people. In all those years, only three have seen her. One died young. One said no. One is still alive a — a twelve-year-old boy named Gauge.

Gauge lives in the fictional French village of Bouge-by-the-Sea with his grandfather, Bastien the Carpenter, and works hard as his apprentice. He’s been hiding much of his life in his grandfather’s shop, just because he once saw the invisible Wolf — and right after that the Lord Mayor’s wife died. Now his only protector, his beloved grandpapá, has died.

Everyone in the village is superstitious about death and believes that Gauge is a Voyant — witch. Gauge wants nothing to do with the Wolf, but the Wolf visits the boy regularly. The Wolf has an offer. She can save him the pain of growing up. Now that he’s all alone in the world, it may be the only way to escape the bounty on his head. If only his grandpapá’s last words hadn’t been, Stay away from the Wolf.

Why I like The Wolf’s Curse:

Jessica Vitalis’s debut novel, The Wolf’s Curse, is a captivating and unforgettable fantasy about about death, grief, loneliness, superstitions, magic, and friendship.  The storytelling is exceptional and full of depth. The plot is risky and engaging. And the ending is perfection. This is a story that will remain with readers. 

This beautiful tale is narrated by a snarky female Wolf, who has her own back story to tell. She’s old and tired and has set her hopes on Gauge taking her place to free the souls of Gatineau from their bodies and help them on their journey to a place of rest. The Wolf is not harmful. The Wolf also tells the stories of the the other characters and brings some humor to the story. Fans of The Book Thief may enjoy this novel.

Gauge is a relatable character who has endured isolation, loneliness and anger because of  how he’s been treated by the villagers. But, he’s also courageous and wise. When his grandpapá dies, he has no choice but to emerge from hiding and deal with his releasing ceremony alone.  With a bounty on his head, no one seems to care about Gauge, except Roux, the Blacksmith’s kind and smart daughter. They hide Gauge in their home while the authorities hunt for him. When Roux loses her father to lung disease, the two friends begin to question the village’s long-held beliefs and rituals, and search for the truth. In doing so, they bravely expose corruption.

The Wolf’s Curse addresses difficult and thought-provoking topics with a wonderful sense of hopefulness. It will enable readers to discuss death in a way that is less scary.

Jessica Vitalis is a full-time writer with a previous career in business and an MBS from Columbia Business School. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters. This is her first novel. Visit her at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy won on Natalie Aguirre’s website Literary Rambles, where she interviews authors and agents weekly and offers many giveaway opportunities to her readers. Make sure you check out her wonderful site and read her fascinating interview with Jessica Vitalis.

 

 

 

 

When Grandfather Flew by Patricia MacLachlan

When Grandfather Flew

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Chris Sheban, Illustrator

Neal Porter Books, Fiction, Jul. 27, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Bird watching, Grandfathers, Nature, Grief

Opening: “When we were younger — before his hair turned white and when he could still see — my older brother, Aidan, and I called him “birdman.”

Synopsis:

Grandfather loves birds and spending time with his youngest grandson, Milo. Together they marvel over the brisk wing beat of the sharp-shinned hawk, the hovering kestrel, and Grandfather’s favorite, the soaring bald eagle. But in time Grandfather’s eyes grow dim, and he needs to rely on his sharp ears and the eyes of others to help him identify the cedar waxwing, the bluebird, and the junco. But one day when Milos comes home from school, his grandfather isn’t there. 

Why I like this book:

When Grandfather Flew is such a loving tribute to a grandfather, who shared his passion of bird watching and nature with his grandchildren, Aiden, Emma and Milo. Patricia MacLachlan’s text is poetic and fills readers with many joyful moments. The moments become memories that deliver a beautiful response at the end.  

This is  heartwarming tale is narrated by Emma. Milo, is the youngest, and he carefully listens to everything his grandfather teaches them about birds, their beaks, wings, and their songs. They quietly step into nature and enjoy their time together outdoors observing the birds on the farm. Grandfather’s favorite bird is the high-soaring bald eagle. “Look up,” he’d say to Milo. “The eagle sees the full sky, he sees the world.”  

Chris Sheban’s soft watercolor and pastel illustrations make this book breathtaking celebration of life. Make sure you check out the endpapers with the gorgeous drawings of a variety of birds.  When Grandfather Flew may be a gentle and reassuring story for children who’ve lost a close family member. It is an inspiring  story that focuses on so many beautiful memories. I plan to give this book to great grandchildren.  

This book is also a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The 122nd annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. This year it runs from Dec. 14 until Jan. 5, 2022.  Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Great Backyard Bird Count  a February 18-21, 2022 and many other counts throughout the years.

Resources: Take children bird watching. Sometimes you only need to look in your own backyard. Ask them what’s their favorite bird. Have them draw a picture. They can check out the endpapers to see Sheban’s pencil drawings. Remember to introduce your kids to the annual Christmas Bird Count and The Great Backyard Bird Count. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count circles near you.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. 

Patricia MacLachlan is the author of many novels for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning Sarah, Plain and Tall; Baby; Waiting for Magic; and The Truth of Me. Among her picture books are  Snowflakes Fall, The Iridescence of Birds, Someone Like Me, and What You Know First. She lives in Western Massachusetts.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.