From School Library Journal
Grade 1–4—"The wolves are back!" So begins this poignant and thought-provoking tale tracing the interconnectedness of nature and the far-reaching effects that occur when one aspect of a particular ecosystem is disrupted, in this case, the wolf population. By 1926, there were no more wolves in the 48 states—"rangers, hunters, and ranchers were told to shoot every wolf they saw. They did."—and the ecological balance was disrupted. Wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and as their numbers grew, balance returned. Moving deftly between the past and present, and set against the backdrop of Wendell Minor's wonderful panoramic paintings, Jean Craighead George's text (Dutton, 2008) beautifully demonstrates the effects of the presence and absence of wolves on the delicate ecosystem. "The vast elk herd had eaten the grasses the little bird needed for food and nesting material. When the wolves returned, they frightened the elk into the mountains. The grasses grew tall. The sparrows raised babies and sang. The wolves were back." Minor's engaging and lively reading is accompanied by excellent sound effects, including fluttering bird wings, songbirds, trampling bison, croaking frogs, and the stirring and plaintive howling of wolves. An excellent purchase for schools and libraries for units on wildlife protection and ecology—Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
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*Starred Review* In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park—first time they had been part of the park’s ecosystem for many years. Although George follows one wolf’s growth from pup to adult, the emphasis here is not as much on the wolves and their habits, but on how their presence has changed the ecosystem and returned its natural balance. In just one example, the wolves drove the elk herds to seek refuge higher in the hills, causing the valley grasses to grow taller, allowing for the return of the Vesper sparrow, which uses the grasses for food and nests. George writes about each of the changes caused by the wolves’ return in simple, rhythmic, informative prose. Adding to the book’s appeal are Minor’s finely detailed illustrations, featuring spectacularly rendered animals in the foreground of the bold, western landscapes. Together the words and pictures make for a highly effective and enjoyable explanation of how the presence of one animal can profoundly affect an ecosystem. Match this with Dorothy Hinshaw Patent’s When the Wolves Returned (2008). Grades 3-5. --Todd Morning
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