Monday, July 2, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Boy Who Howled

Don't miss this delightful middle grade novel--and be sure to check back on Wednesday, July 4, for an interview with the author!

Hardback (Bloomsbury 2010)
The wolves in Timothy Power’s The Boy Who Howled aren’t are cute or tame. They have realistic, disgusting habits, and they’re vicious and dangerous--even to Callum, the pack’s furless mascot:

Callum would curl up between Mom and Aunt Trudy. This was Mom’s idea, due to the fact that even though Callum had spent so much time with the pack, Dad still wanted to devour him. Before he fell asleep, he would press his face against Mom’s two-layered coat and inhale the homey scents of oily musk and ruminant innards.

Power strikes a nice balance between anthropomorphizing the wolves and depicting them realistically. Though they seem to talk, they do so only from Callum’s perspective. He’s the one who attributes human-like thoughts and feelings to them and imagines what they are saying. Or ... is it just his imagination? Callum isn't quite certain, and neither are we. What's certain is that the imagined wolf-conversations are simply hilarious:

“There’s only room for one Alpha Male!” snapped Dad ….
“There’s only room for one Beta Male, too!” piped up Uncle Rick.
“Omega is up for grabs, if anyone wants it,” said Grampa, who then farted loudly. “Look out below! Man, does pancreas ever give me gas.”

It’s impossible not to care about Callum, who is well aware of his precarious position in the pack:

Week after week, month after month, Callum worked hard to master the ways of the pack while trying not to look too delicious.

Paperback (Bloomsbury 2012)
Life in the wild is the only life Callum knows. Having been lost in the woods as a toddler, he has only shadowy memories of his pre-wolf days. But all that is about to change. Callum is growing bigger--big enough, the other wolves fear, to challenge his father for Alpha Male position. To avoid a fatal conflict, Mom Wolf decides it’s time for him to fend for himself. The pack escorts Callum to the edge of the woods, near a train station, and leaves him.

So he gives himself a pep talk:

I’m fierce, Callum reminded himself. I’m savage. I am a wild thing!

Then, with that helpful mindset, he leaves the familiarity of the woods. Baring his teeth and brandishing his hands like claws, he enters the crowded train station.

Callum then begins the task of assimilating into human society. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, Callum finds himself in school. Of course, his wolfish understanding of social expectations  leads to trouble when he allies himself with the school "bad boy", Billy Bankson, an Alpha Male if Callum ever saw one.

Okay, that's all I'm going to give you. If you want to know what happens to Callum (and, admit it, you do!) you'll have to read it for yourself.

The Boy Who Howled is a humorous and heartfelt tale that will appeal to both boys and girls. In fact, there is a likeable girl main character, too, whom I haven't mentioned, for fear of spoilers. The book just came out in paperback with a spiffy new cover (the blue one at the right).

On Wednesday, July 4, Readatouille will feature  an interview with author Timothy Power!

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays is a meme started by the wonderful Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities.  If you want to join the fun, e-mail Shannon Messenger at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com.with a link to your blog and the title of the middle grade book you're featuring. Put MMGM in the subject line. Please email her by Sunday night to be mentioned in her Monday post. Visit Shannon's blog for more details and for a list of participants with links.


Mirka Breen said...

Seems like a strong story, but what struck me is the difference in feel of the two covers. I haven't read it, so I won't choose between them as to what best captures the feel of the book. What do *you* think?

Ruth Donnelly said...

Good question, Mirka. I think I'd have to go with the paperback cover. The hardback one plays up the humor and hyperbole, which is a big part of TBWH. But to me, the relationships and emotions in the story feel authentic, and I think the photo captures that better. Also, I think the paperback cover will appeal to a wider age range.

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Hm, interesting comments. I've only read the original, and admit that I fell in love with his cover. But I believe Ruth is correct in her assessment of the emotional aspects of the story. I hadn't even thought of it before Mirka brought it up.

Anonymous said...

interesting comments about the cover - goes to show how subjective the artist can be!! thanks for the recommendation, and happy (late) mmgm!