Home School Book Review
, January 17, 2012
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Twelve-year-old Jack Landon and his eleven-year-old sister Ashley live with their mom, Olivia, who is a wildlife veterinarian at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, WY, and their father Steven, who is a photographer. The family also takes in Troy Haverson, a somewhat rebellious thirteen-year-old boy whose mother has just disappeared. Then Olivia gets a call from Mike, head of Yellowstone National Park’s Wolf Restoration Program, about a nearby rancher’s dog which was supposedly killed by park wolves, and he wants her to come and investigate. When the Landons arrive at Yellowstone, there are all kinds of people picketing and protesting the wolves, and this slows down the rangers. After Mike comes, he, Olivia, and Steven need to go off to investigate the scene, leaving the children for another ranger to pick up. While waiting, the children see a pair of wolves, and as Jack is taking pictures, one of the wolves is shot.
Troy runs after the wolf hoping to save it and perhaps catch the sniper, so Jack and Ashley run after him, and the three of them spend a cold night in the wilderness with the injured wolf. How will they survive? What really happened to the dog and the wolf? Is there more to the rancher’s story than he’s been telling? And will Troy’s mother ever be found? Wolf Stalker is #1 in the National Parks Mystery series. I first saw a display of these books in the gift shop at Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania and recognized the name of one of the authors, Gloria Skurzynski, from another wonderful book of hers, The Minstrel in the Tower, that we had read. Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson are a mother and daughter writing team. It was my hope that there would be one on Valley Forge, but there isn’t, so I bought the one about Yellowstone. Originally, these books were called the “Mysteries in Our National Parks” and published in hardback but most were republished in “digest edition paperback.” This one certainly has a lot of tension and excitement.
However, there are some language and attitude issues. Besides a few childish slang terms (crud, crap, screwed), which I assume are used to make the characters seem “relevant” to modern readers, references to “cussing,” though no actual cuss words are found, and to a “nasty hand gesture,” though it is not described in detail, appear. Jack calls Ashley “tick brain,” and other examples of seeming disrespect occur. The truth is really stretched during the interrogation of the rancher, and on one occasion Jack is actually said to have “lied.” These things may not be issues for many parents, but others may find them somewhat objectionable. For these reasons, I would say ages 12 and up rather than 8 and up. At the same time, despite their spats, it is clear that Jack and Ashley really do love one another, and Olivia said that she “prayed and prayed” while the kids were missing. It’s an interesting story with a good premise and a lot of factual information, but some parents may prefer better role models. Other books in the series take place in Mesa Verde, Everglades, Glacier, Zion, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Virgin Islands, Acadia, Carlsbad Caverns, Denali (Mt. McKinley), and Smoky Mountains National Parks. Another one in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Rage of Fire) is listed but apparently not available in a paperback edition.