Children's books often take us into worlds of magic and imagination that's what they're supposed to do. Rare is the book that not only takes us to those places, but does so in such a way as to create something that is both fresh and familiar. Daniel Pennac's latest effort, Eye of the Wolf, does just that. It's a new book that feels like a story your grandfather might have read as a boy. The form of the tale is old, but the issues it explores are as timeless as a sunset.
Eye of the Wolfis actually two stories, that of Blue Wolf, a one-eyed Canis lupus caged in a zoo, and that of his daily visitor, a silent boy named Africa. Their stories, while separate, gradually converge, and their eventual intersection holds a surprise that is delightfully unexpected.
Like a modern-day Kipling, Pennac relates how the smart and resourceful Blue Wolf came to be where he is. The author takes us swiftly from the wolf's position as a unique pup among many to the fateful day when his curious sister changes all their lives. The animal's sacrifice in the face of the inevitable encroachment of man is the first of many environmental messages in the book. Meanwhile, Africa's travels take us from deserts to grasslands to jungles, and from despair to hope to heartbreak. His journey to the other side of the bars of Blue Wolf's cage is as much a result of outside forces as it is Blue Wolf's allure and it gives us a stinging reminder that man is just as endangered as those he endangers. Yet even so, with his elegant prose, the author shows us that oneness can still be achieved in our world.
The amazing thing about Eye of the Wolf is that it manages to be both mythical and modern a new-age fable. Coupled with Max Grafe's unforgettable illustrations, this beautifully written book will enthrall any middle-schooler who loves nature or a good story.
James Neal Webb recommends a trip to the zoo after you read this book.