Country of Wolves by Neil Christopher
Posted April 7, 2016on:
The Country of Wolves by Neil Christopher is based on an animated film adaptation of a traditional Inuit story. While the film seems to have garnered positive response, including awards, reviews of the graphic novel adaptation have been more mixed. I’m of the same sentiment about the book. I disliked the stereotypical depiction of wolves, but otherwise the story makes for a quick read and could result in a lot of conversation in a classroom.
Let me get my negative reaction out of the way, so that I can focus on the positives of The Country of Wolves. Throughout time, wolves have been portrayed as bloodthirsty, cruel, and evil. And while this conception of them might be how Native myths and legends depicted them, I dislike seeing this cliché perpetuated. In The Country of Wolves, the instant that wolves smell man they’re on the trail and the warning is given that they’ll hunt until they kill. In fact the only way to stop them is to destroy their leader. Yet wolves can form emotional attachments, show aversion to fighting, and possess intelligence. Wolves are also a necessary part of the ecosystem. So, while The Country of Wolves might make for a terrifying horror story, it’ll also sadly encourage young people to view wolves as bad. Any educator who uses this book should also combine it with lessons such as this one: Stereotyping and Bias.
The back pages to The Country of Wolves explain that the stories are sacred to The Inuit, they link them to their ancestors and to the land. And versions of this particular tale have been passed on for generations in communities across the Arctic. I did look at many summaries of Native myths and legends, but couldn’t find this one. However, there were plenty which featured the wolf as evil. Also, the author certainly should know the tales, having moved to the region many years ago as an educator. Near the end of Country of Wolves, I learned that there were several references included in the story itself to the spirit world such as Northern Lights and Watchful Moon. Some reviewers suggested this information would have better placed near the front. I’d encourage educators to supplement this tale with materials about Inuit folklore, such as an intermediate graphic novel study which according to Goodminds is provided online at The Nunavut Arctic College.
You’ll notice that I’ve referred more than once to educators. Despite my concurring with the mixed reviews, I did find the plot to be haunting and action-packed. It also included a morbid twist. The graphics were also visually pleasing and adequately enhanced the text. The Country of Wolves will no doubt appeal to many boys, as well as folklore buffs. Beyond that, I’d recommend it for use in the classroom to stir discussions about stereotypes and about Native culture.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?