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SB&F Throwback Thursday

A look back through our archives for classic books still worth reading.

Jean Craighead George (July 2, 1919 – May 15, 2012) was an American author of more than one hundred books for children and young adults, including the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves, the Newbery Honor Book My Side of the Mountain, and its sequel, On the Far Side of the Mountain. Common themes in George's works are the environment and the natural world. In 2009, George won the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to children's science and nature books. George died in 2012, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript. Called Ice Whale, it was completed by her children Luke and Twig George and released this month.

In this post we look back at a 1997 review another one of Jean Craighead George's beloved books.

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary. (Illus. by Lucia Washburn.) NY HarperCollins 1997.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Level: Grades K-3

Wolf pups are born, grow, and learn the ways of adults in the pack in this beautifully illustrated story. The author tells her story beginning with "1 Day Old. When you see dandelions turning silver, look to the north. Wolf pups are being born." Each page is dominated by captivating illustrations by Lucia Washburn that show the pups at each new stage of development. The text is carefully and consistently organized, stating first the age of the young wolves and then a connection to some event in the reader's environment. An example is "When you are eating fresh blueberries, look to the north. Wolf pups are practicing their hunting skills." Finally, a carefully worded description of the behavior of a particular group of three wolves tells us that "Boulder nips Scree the way his father nips caribou. Scree nips Talus the way her mother trips moose. Talus shakes a piece of caribou fur so hard, he gets dizzy. All three can peel hide from the bone toys their parents bring them." The book follows Boulder, Scree, and Talus until they are 101/2 months old: "When night and day are of equal length, look to the north. New pups are on their way. High in the mountains, the young adult wolves are ready to help the pack raise their new brothers and sisters." The behavioral descriptions are exceedingly accurate and complete, including such aspects of wolf social behavior as dominance, scent marking, social communication, individual differences, and cooperative hunting. Overall, this book provides an excellent means for introducing young children to wolf behavior, and it will motivate many to learn more.—Judy Diamond, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE


Check out our Throwback Thursday Archives for more great classic reviews.