The Wolf Effect: A Wilderness Revival Story (A Voice of the Wilderness Picture Book)

Image of The Wolf Effect: A Wilderness Revival Story (A Voice of the Wilderness Picture Book)
Release Date: 
May 7, 2024
Greenwillow Books
Reviewed by: 

“overall the book is stunning, factual, and gorgeous to look at.”

The prettiest pastel book for kids has got to be The Wolf Effect. Colors are pale blue, gray, yellow, green, mauve, and brown. The text is black. Several things are going on at once. A poem runs through the story, and maybe that’s all a reader wants to read to a young child. At the bottom of each page is the history of Yellowstone Park, interesting to an older child. Two characters, Bear and Fox, have a running dialogue with speech bubbles throughout the book, discussing life from their points of view. ”Bear, have you heard?”  “Wolves are coming!  Truckloads of them. From far away.” “I bet they run straight home.” “Plenty for them to eat here. I bet they stay.”  

Extra facts show up in rectangular yellow boxes with wooden sides. “Wolves hunt every two to three days. Ravens sometimes lead a pack to prey.”

The rhyming text is cumulative, like a House that Jack Built story. It’s a clever way to show how every living thing in Yellowstone is connected to each other. That is an ecosystem, where the removal of just one animal can destroy the whole process.

When wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone Park in the 1920s, no one dreamed that the entire ecosystem of the park would be changed. With no wolves, there were too many elk. Too many elk ate all the plants, needed to keep the willows, which helped the beavers, which created ponds to help make a habitat for the birds, fish, and insects.

When forward thinking people reintroduced wolf packs in 1995, the ecosystem began to restore its needed balance. Now, almost 30 years later, it is evident that the people did the right thing.

The back of the book shows a double-page spread of all the animals in the Yellowstone ecosystem: bears, beavers, wolves, elk, bison, cougars, coyotes, owls, eagles, pine martens, porcupines, raccoons, ravens, red foxes, skunks, snapping turtles, songbirds, white-tailed deer, and white-tailed jackrabbits. Turn the page and there’s a double-page spread telling of A Brief History of Wolves in the American West. There is also an artist’s note, explaining why she includes maps in all of her books, including Yellowstone Park and the American West. The back page has a glossary and lists additional resources.

Some sad facts include that when Yellowstone became a national park, Indigenous Americans were removed from the park.

The poem has a couple of rough spots, including here: “So the park that was wild became wilder still/more life, more abundance on valley and hill/ the wolves touched off a cascade of good things/ from drought resistance to butterfly wings.” The third line is missing a beat after wolves. And again here: “And because wolves can travel a very long way/ a wolf might just come to your wilderness someday.” Even though the two lines have the same number of syllables, the word wilderness doesn’t work because it doesn’t fit the beat.

In the big picture, these things can be forgiven because overall the book is stunning, factual, and gorgeous to look at. Every science classroom needs a copy of The Wolf Effect, along with homes where children enjoy the out of doors and learning about nature.