Picture Book Review: Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Maple loves being the Parker family’s pet dog . . . but why does everyone else think she’s a wolf? Fans of Red: A Crayon’s Story and Wolfie the Bunny will cheer for Maple to find exactly where she belongs. Maple the husky is a valued member of the team, but strangers always seem to think she’s a wolf! It’s true: Maple can hunt, she can howl, and she can dig, just like wolves can. Oh, no! What if she is a wolf and doesn’t belong with her family after all? A perfectly paced tale of family, self-acceptance, and belonging, Lone Wolf strikes the balance between heartwarming and hilarious. This irrepressible and sensitive dog’s identity crisis and spirited journey of self-discovery will capture readers’ hearts, whether or not they have a pet themselves.

Lone Wolf, the picture book debut of author and illustrator Sarah Kurpiel, tells the story of a beautiful husky dog named Maple who begins to question who she is as people outside her family make assumptions about her being a wolf. Already the recipient of a starred review from School Library Journal, and commendations from Kirkus Reviews, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Booklist, Lone Wolf is making a name for itself as a strong- and extremely lovable!- debut. And indeed, Lone Wolf is a fantastically charming picture book.

As the story opens, readers see a darling husky dog named Maple sitting in her family’s kitchen. We learn that Maple loves being part of the Parker family: as the family dog, she plays tug-of-war with Jax and reads with Avery (her human brother and sister, respectively), and gets to enjoy lots of (extra) treats and (extra) long walks. Maple is cheerful and content in her life…but, for some reason, when she is out with her family and meeting strangers, people keep commenting about her looking like a wolf! Making assumptions mostly based on Maple’s appearance, strangers wonder and remark that Maple sure does seem like a wolf, and ask whether the Parker family is certain Maple isn’t part-wolf. The questions and comments lead Maple to doubt herself and her place as her family’s dog: what if the way she digs (for flowers!), hunts (for stuffed toys!), and loudly howls (for biscuits!) really are how a wolf behaves? And if Maple is, in fact, a wolf, that means that her life cannot be with her beloved family anymore! What follows is a trip to the unknown (and lonely) outdoors that leads to a much welcome and satisfying ending. Kurpiel’s illustrative style is lovely and immensely appealing: the focused colour palette and the calm yet visually interesting spreads (truly delightful!) allow Maple to remain the center focus of the story, whether in husky close-ups or in an array of fluid canine movements and actions. The text itself is also streamlined- lending itself beautifully to being read aloud- flowing smoothly from opening to climax to ending, working terrifically in tandem with the illustrations to tell a complete yet lighthearted story about family and fitting in.

Overall, Lone Wolf is a winning treat of a picture book. Children and adults alike will likely fall in love with not only how adorable and immediately likable Maple (and her family) is, but also take heart in her journey of finding a happy place of self-assurance and belonging. Readers who have read and enjoyed stories such as Odd Dog Out, Quackers, Room for Bear, Mabel: A Mermaid Fable, or Not Quite Narwhal, may especially love Sarah Kurpiel’s sweet and heartwarming debut.

Extras: Be sure to check out this Book Trailer post on Mr. Schu Reads with Sarah Kurpiel! There is also a link to a fabulous Lone Wolf printable activity kit via HarperKids, as well as GIFs from Lone Wolf via Sarah Kurpiel’s GIPHY page!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of the author and Greenwillow Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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