Taking an entire world of information on a given subject and distilling it
into a useful introduction takes both a thorough knowledge of
that subject, and great skill as a writer. In Wolves, Nancy Gibson provides
an excellent example of how it should be done.
Gibson's work as naturalist for the Emmy-award-winning PBS show Newton's
Apple, and co-founder of the International Wolf Center in Minnesota
have apparently shown her both what people want to know,
and what they need to know about wolves to understand the much-maligned
The book includes 52 beautiful colour photos of wolves around the world, from
Africa to Siberia, from a domesticated wolf-dog hybrid to the dominance stances
used in establishing a wolf pack's power hierarchy. Many of the photos are by
Lynn and Donna Rogers, but images from people such as renowned wolf expert
L. David Mech are also included.
Wolves are no longer commonly seen in the wild, and "Wolves" begins by taking
the reader into the world of a wolf researcher to show the thrill that such a
sighting can produce:
"Suddenly the branches cracked and seemingly out of nowhere two wolves appeared
and began to run toward me. For me - and my pulsing heart - this was the
glimpse of wild wolves that had eluded me for years."
Gibson discusses some basic features of the life of wolves, from pack size to
the social development of pups. This is followed by an excellent section on
the 2 species of wolves (Red and Gray), and 7 of the 14 subspecies of gray
wolf around the world.
Possibly the most useful features of this book, however, are the sections on
"Lupine Lore," in which the author debunks some of the common wolf myths
(including some advanced by well-known authors such as Farley Mowat), and the
state of international wolf conservation efforts. This is where Gibson's
comprehensive knowledge of the wolf becomes most apparent. Although she makes
it clear that Minnesota has been the source of a great deal of what we know
about wolves, a broad perspective is successfully maintained.
Given Gibson's background, it must have been very difficult to keep a
professional voice in the section "War on Wolves," which describes attempts
to eliminate wolves through the ages. The examples provided, however, are
informative rather than sensationalist.
Wolves provides a well-rounded introduction to Canis lupus, as well as
being entertaining reading and a visual treat, and will be a valuable
addition to school libraries in particular.
by Nancy Gibson
Publisher: Voyageur Press, 1996
Available at Amazon