Hunting—the predator, and its prey—is at the heart of this riveting and suspenseful novel from Newbery Medalist Avi with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca.
Story Behind the Story
My two sons Jack and Robert, though four years apart in age, were inseparable. So when Robert started high school, we thought Jack would need a new, close friend. We found an Alaskan Malamute puppy for him. The sole male in a litter of six, we drove home with the tiny dog on Jack’s lap, while debating the right name for the dog. Jack informed us that Malamutes were traditionally named after some place in Alaskan geography. Thus the dog came to be named McKinley—after Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in the United States. And indeed, McKinley grew into a very large animal. read more
Awards and Recognition
Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection
“A stirring performance by Kirby Heyborne complements this thought-provoking exploration of nature's complexity. Heyborne richly captures the various roles and voices of grey wolf pack members. Through a deep-toned, slow-paced narration, he conveys the age and wisdom of Nashoba, the old wolf who finds his role as pack leader challenged by Garby, a younger, angry, and aggressive wolf, whom Heyborne portrays with a stronger, faster-paced voice. Heyborne's versatility in pitch brings out the enthusiastic naïveté of 13-year-old Casey and the high, raucous cawing of Merla the raven. The emotional highs and lows in the characters' changing relationships are further expressed through Heyborne's dynamic use of volume. Overall, this is a beautifully intense and haunting listening experience.” (Audio File, Real Time Reviews)
“Part survival story and part coming-of-age tale, Avi's (Catch You Later, Traitor) novel is told from the alternating points of view of two hunters: Nashoba, an aging wolf, and Casey, a 13-year-old country boy. Despite a leg injury and growing physical weakness, Nashoba is determined to find food for his pack during the "starving time" in early spring. His desperation drives him into dangerous territory, close to where humans reside. Meanwhile, a short distance away, eighth-grader Casey has just received his first archery set and looks forward to the thrill of hunting, which he has only experienced vicariously through computer games. One snowy day Casey ventures out with his bow and arrows in hopes of finding a target. Nashoba, spurred by need, and Casey, seeking adventure, unknowingly inch closer toward each other. The book's short chapters and steadily rising suspense will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. More seasoned readers will appreciate the story's different levels of meaning and subtle themes beyond the central man-versus-nature conflict.” (Publishers Weekly)
“As winter wanes in the mountain regions of Colorado, Nashoba, an aging wolf, struggles to find fresh game for his pack, all the while desperately trying to hold on to his alpha status. He knows full well that his true survival depends not on besting an eager challenger but on the next kill, which will produce life-saving food. A shrewd raven named Marla, seeking an unlikely partnership, offers to help Nashoba hunt if he will let her share the leavings. In a parallel story, thirteen-year-old Casey also dreams of kills, but those that are from a video game he plays incessantly. These kills are both spectacular and numerous, and his appetite for real-world hunting is whetted when he receives a bow-and-arrow set for his birthday. These two stories—of one struggling with decreased killing power and one full of his own increasing power—come in direct contact as Nashoba, led by Marla, creeps closer and closer to civilization, and Casey, eager to try out his new weapon, ventures farther and farther into the neighboring woods. Avi switches perspective between Nashoba and Casey, building the tension and raising a multitude of questions in this thought-provoking allegory. Should the head of the food chain kill for sport? And, is that killing really sport? Naturalistic black-and-white pencil illustrations by Floca (who also illustrated Avi’s Poppy books) enhance the classic-feeling tale.” (The Horn Book)
"Old Wolf is a brilliant, tension-filled, coming-of-age tale for young readers and tweens about friction between the young, strong, and impulsive and the old and wise. It’s a tale of life and death. As the young boy and the old wolf move toward a climactic meeting, the character caught in the middle is the snippy and forthright old raven who’s proposed a deal to Nashoba that will benefit both the wolves and the hungry ravens.