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Mark Van Steenwyk, along with his partner Amy and their son Jonas, live at the Mennonite Worker, an intentional community in Minneapolis devoted to hospitality, simplicity, peacemaking, resistance and prayer. Mark is a public speaker . Mark is the author of A Wolf at the Gate, The unKingdom of God, and That Holy Anarchist. As the producer of the Iconocast, he has interviewed Cornel West, James Cone, Bill Ayers, Noam Chomsky, Starhawk, Wazayatawin and many more. 

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A Wolf at the Gate
Author: Mark Van Steenwyk • Illustrator: Joel Hedstrom
Publisher: PM Press/Reach And Teach
ISBN: 978-1-62963-150-9
Published: 04/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 80
Subjects: Juvenile Fiction-Folklore/Juvenile Fiction-Social Issues

The Blood Wolf prowls near the village of Stonebriar at night. She devours chickens and goats and cows and cats. Some say children are missing. But this murderous wolf isn’t the villain of our story, she’s the hero!

The Blood Wolf hates humankind for destroying the forest, but an encounter with a beggar teaches her a better way to confront injustice. How will she react when those she loves are threatened?

This imaginative retelling of the legend of Saint Francis and the Wolf explores what it means to be a peacemaker in the midst of violence and how to restore a healthy relationship with creation.

Settle in and read a tale of tooth and sword, of beggars and lords, of outlaws and wild beasts. It is a story of second chances and the power of love. This is the story of the A Wolf at the Gate.


A Wolf at the Gate is a simple story that evokes profound and fundamental themes: survival, hunger, war and violence, law and justice, fear, greed, and predation. In the hands of Mark Van Steenwyk it becomes a transformative parable of truth and reconciliation, the power of community, and the dazzling force of love enacted in the public square, the very heart of justice.”
—Bill Ayers, author of Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident

“Van Steenwyk writes in sharp, muscular prose highly suitable for the fabulistic subject matter, deftly navigating both the darker and lighter segments of the story. The true standouts of the book, however, are the illustrations by Joel Hedstrom . . . full-page illustrations in brilliant colors that feel simultaneously ancient and stylishly contemporary. The result is a book out of time: a coupling of narrative and illustration that should stoke the imagination of any young modern reader. A visually stunning work addressing themes of peace, generosity, and forgiveness.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“What a cutting-edge book! This retelling of a timeless story through fresh eyes not only provides a deeper insight into its original values, it also gives the story contemporary relevance. And the illustrations are an absolutely perfect embodiment of the book’s soul.”
—Innosanto Nagara, author of A is for Activist

“In A Wolf at the Gate, we find a medieval fable made potently relevant. With solid prose and timeless illustrations, this book is recommended to all families passionate about social justice and living in harmony with the Earth.”
—Chris Crass, author of Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy

“Van Steenwyk retells the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the wolf of Gubbio in his first book for children. This time, the story is narrated from the point of view of the wolf with a red coat, ‘born under the red glow of the Hunter’s Moon,’ a clever shift that adds tension and new beauty to a familiar tale. When her pack is forced to leave their native forest because humans in nearby Stonebriar deplete the wolves’ food, she remains. Angry and starving, the red wolf begins to prey on humans and their livestock. Soon, Blood Wolf, as she is now called, meets the Beggar King, ‘beloved by the common folk.’ Under his tutelage, she transforms from angry, violent predator—feared by animals and humans alike—to kind friend to all, renamed Sister Wolf. As a result of her instruction from the Beggar King, Sister Wolf comes to understand that all life is worth preserving and that loving kindness is the greatest of all gifts. Influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Hedstrom’s stark, solid, and lovely illustrations appear throughout.”
Publishers Weekly

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What Others are Saying

Interviews & Mentions

suspendedA Wolf at the Gate: A Review
By Susan Lissim
School Library Journal
June 29th, 2016

Van Steenwyk, Mark. A Wolf at the Gate. illus. by Joel Hedstrom. 80p. PM Pr. Jul. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781629631455.

Gr 5-8 –A reimagining of the Saint Francis tale. With short chapters and a large typeface, this title has the appearance of a chapter book, though the themes and vocabulary are more advanced. A red wolf is born. As she grows, the wolf learns to share and not be greedy, to take only what is needed, and to understand that selfishness brings consequences. After becoming an adult and suffering the loss of her parents, the red wolf leads her pack wisely until humans begin to hunt and food becomes scarce. After hunger and loneliness drive her to steal from the humans in the village, a caring man referred to as the Beggar King (Saint Francis) teaches the red wolf to cooperate with the villagers. After some time, the wolf also helps a group of outlaws (who are really homeless people in need of food) and, with the help of the forest animals, teaches the outlaws to be self-sufficient and caring. Illustrations are realistic in a primitive style of mostly brown and red. There are several morals highlighted in this story: sharing, helping others to become independent, and not hurting others—all aspects of the parables of Saint Francis. A short afterword from the author indicates his inspiration and explains his idea to tell the story from the wolf’s point of view. The author also shares facts about Saint Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. This parable sheds a light on Saint Francis and does so without being heavy-handed. VERDICT This will be most useful in religious studies curricula.–Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City

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suspendedWolves, Gates, & Radicals Faith
by Jared Bias
Pete ends
April 6th, 2016

1. Your first two books are That Holy Anarchist and The Unkingdom of God. Not really kids lit. What was going on in your life that inspired you to take a crack at writing a children’s book?

When I started writing it, I had a 6 year old who found books about war and fighting and knights and pirates thrilling. Since I wanted to stir a love for justice and peace in my son, I started looking for kid books about nonviolence. Most of the ones I found weren’t very exciting. Since I’ve been a fan of kid lit my entire life, I thought I’d tackle writing an exciting book that promotes peace.

At the same time, I was at a low point in my life as an activist and writer. I think I was burnt out on trying to convince adults to take Jesus’ radical message seriously. It takes an imagination to consider alternative ways of seeing the world, which is essential if we’re going to work for liberation. If an adult is unimaginative, it is extremely difficult to reach them with a message of liberation. That led me to consider focusing my creative energy on younger people. Not exclusively–I still plan on doing some of the stuff I’ve been doing the past 15 years–but I think writing for younger audiences is something I’m going to take much more seriously.

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suspendedMark Van Steenwyk Interviewed

Where did you get the idea for A Wolf at the Gate?

I’ve loved the legend of Saint Francis and the wolf for years. It is one of the stories about peacemaking I’ve told my son. Unfortunately, Jonas prefers violent stories. I wrote A Wolf at the Gate for him. I wanted to tell the most exciting story I could, but one that still subverted the old myth of redemptive violence.

Previously, you’ve written or contributed to works of non-fiction–particularly in areas of spirituality and radical politics. How did you decide to write a story for children?

We live in a dark world. Our nation has been at war for most of my life. Increasingly, folks are protesting economic injustice, environmental injustice, racial injustice…but we don’t seem much closer to justice.

Adults are often set in their ways, but children often have an imagination for a new world. In a way, I don’t see this book as very much of a departure from my earlier books. The big difference is my audience. I’m starting to write for children because I believe that our hopes for justice rest with them.

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