Summer of the Wolves, by Polly Carlson-Voiles;
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young
Readers: New York, 2012; $15.99
Polly Carlson-Voiles’s Summer of the Wolves is a wonderful book about a twelve-year-old girl named Nika and her younger brother who were recently orphaned and are being sent to their long-lost uncle’s house in Minnesota for the summer. Nika’s uncle studies wolf migration patterns, and one day, when Nika joins her uncle to go observe a wolf in the wild, they find her dead, but they also find the dead wolf ’s pup. Nika and her Uncle Ian must bring the wolf pup back to their cabin and take care of it, so it won’t die, since it is now motherless.
In the story, I felt that I could connect a lot with Nika, especially when Nika becomes close with Kahn, the motherless wolf pup. It reminds me of when my family got my German shepherd puppy named Bella. When Nika’s uncle says they must give Kahn to the conservation center where he works, Nika is very upset; I could never imagine having to get rid of Bella.
One part of the story I found particularly good was when Nika and her friend Thomas plan to let loose skunks, coyotes, and wolves that a man named Bristo was illegally keeping. When Nika and Thomas go over to Bristo’s house to let all the animals loose, they also stumble upon a mountain lion. When they try to release it, it snaps at Nika, so Thomas and Nika decide to let her be. Hearing Bristo start to open the back door, Nika and Thomas run away but drop the pair of wire cutters they brought to open the cages. Eventually, Nika and Thomas confess to the police that they were the ones who let Bristo’s animals loose. In the end, they have to do community service for a couple of weeks to make up for it. While doing community service, they talk about the crime and the punishment but still agree that it was well worth it.
Throughout the book, I agreed with Nika a lot, especially when she decides she wants to release Kahn back into the wild with Luna, another wolf that Nika and Thomas discovered, instead of bringing Kahn to the conservation center. That would be such a hard decision, but in the end it would probably be the best thing. I think that animals, especially wolves, should not be kept in captivity but in the wild. As the saying goes, “If you love something, set it free.” Nika decided that if she really did love Kahn, she should let him be where he is happiest, the wild. When Nika tells her Uncle Ian about her plan, he disagrees.
I always felt bad for Nika when her Uncle Ian treated her like a little kid. Uncle Ian would never trust Nika to take Kahn outside of a fenced area. When her uncle had to go to work or to conferences, he always had vet assistants and people who worked with him stay over at the cabin to take care of Kahn, even if it was only for a couple of hours. She was always trying to prove to him that she was mature enough to handle Kahn. I feel that by the end of the book, Uncle Ian finally sees that she can handle Kahn herself and is becoming a young adult.
Summer of the Wolves is one of my favorite books of all time! After the first chapter of Summer of the Wolves, I simply could not put this book down! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves animals, nature, and stories of hardship.