People often ask me for the origins of a particular book or story. In fact, the other day I was reading to my wife a short story I had written. When I finished my reading she told me she liked it and then asked, “How did you get the notion for that?” I had to admit I had no idea where it came from. That can’t be said of my latest book, Old Wolf, which has just been published.
We had a much-loved family dog, an Alaskan malamute, named McKinley. In fact, he’s the primary subject of an earlier book, The Good Dog. As will happen, the dog grew old, almost reaching fourteen years. At that point he became overwhelmed with ill-health, pain, and he died, much mourned.
It was being a witness to McKinley’s last months, his pain and suffering, that is the geneses of Old Wolf. Keep in mind malamutes look like wolves.
The story is about an old wolf who has suffered a wound, even as he seeks to lead his pack to food during the early spring, the “Starving time.”
Into the story is woven something I’ve long been fascinated by, the relationship of wolves and ravens. Wolves are very intriguing and ravens are quite remarkable creatures in their own right.
The other main thread of the story is the boy, Casey, whose knowledge of death comes through video games. My youngest son played them a lot, and I was always staggered by his casual “killing,” of men, beasts, and monsters. But in video games while there is a lot of killing, there is no real death.
So here, in Old Wolf, is a wounded old wolf, a smart raven, and a boy who would like nothing more than to be a hunter and kill something. And—for his 13th birthday, he has just received a bow and arrow set.
In Old Wolf, Boy, Wolf and Raven meet.
And by the way, they meet in the forest that surrounds my home, high in the Rocky Mountains. My good friend, Brian Floca (Caldecott 2014), who did the illustrations (and the gorgeous cover) visited us and was able to capture much of my world.
Anyway, new book, Old Wolf. Hope you enjoy it.