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.