If I could pinpoint the book that started it all, this is the one. In a nutshell, it is the story of city girl who moves to a remote farm in the Montana wilderness with her father, after the sudden death of her mother. Left largely to her own devices, Hallie befriends a wolfcub with tragic consequences.
I read and re-read this book at a kid, seizing every time on the heartbreaking passage at the end that left me sobbing time and time again. The wonder of the almost magical power this book had over me is what ignited my passion for reading in general.
So it was very strange to re-read this book last week, some twenty odd years later, out loud to my three kids aged 10, 7 and 6. What struck me is just how (wait for it) BORRRING it is for long, long stretches!
I mean, I had to work so hard at my accents and expressions just to keep the kids from falling asleep, that I think their enjoyment was based entirely on the comic observations of their over-exuberant mother flipping the pages dramatically and saying “I wonder whatever might happen next!”
I don’t know what this says about me, let alone the book. I like to think it’s a reflection of what a diligent little reader when I was 9, but more likely, I think, it’s a telling sign that books for young people nowadays have become SO much more relevant and accessible than they used to be. Kids expect to be entertained; stories should have pace and plot and action and not be overly indulgent when it comes to quiet reflection and observation (of which there is plenty in My Wolf My Friend).
This apparent lazyness?/impatience? on behalf of young readers today is not always a good thing, because of course, sometimes you have to invest a little (time, faith) in order to get something back with books. I think of the number of times I start a novel these days, and MOST of them don’t have those catchy openers that haul you in from page 1. More often than not, you’re well into a third of the way through before you feel yourself coming under the spell.
So books that teach us to invest and persevere when we’re young are great, and should be applauded. I’m just not sure that My Wolf My Friend is one of those… the “good time” my kids took away from it, for example, was all about the hilarity of MY read-aloud performance (complete with tears and blubbering at the end, right on cue) and little to do with the book itself.