Patrick Jennings, Author . Scholastic $15.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-439-39555-7

Jennings (Faith and the Electric Dogs ; The Beastly Arms ) demonstrates a superb diversity of style and characterization with this gripping tale of a family that can turn into wolves, set in 16th-century France. By choosing this era, the author probes the tenets of Christianity and the corruption of the church at a time when purported witches were burned at the stake. Born into a long line of shepherds, 13-year-old Lazlo lives with his family off by themselves, isolated from the townspeople, due to their foreign accent and ways. His mother and father possess an advantage in their vocation: they can transform into "loup-garou" (what the French called werewolves) to negotiate with wolves in the neighboring pack and protect their flock. When Muno, an orphan girl Lazlo's age, witnesses his mother's transformation while running away from her warden—the town's evil priest—Lazlo realizes that she knows the truth. Yet his desire for a friend impels him to conceal from his parents both Muno's knowledge of their secret and the growing hostility in the village toward them. Taking on the mindset of his characters, Jennings appeals to readers' senses, especially as Lazlo finally chooses to change into a wolf and "the softly fragrant forest... was now a place noisier and smellier than the village square." In contrast to the kindness and integrity of the natural wolves, the "loup-garou" and society's other outcasts, the priest and townspeople emerge as the bestial creatures. This page-turner delivers a fascinating commentary on what constitutes true goodness. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Mass Market Paperbound - 197 pages - 978-0-439-39556-4
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-33811-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-5106-1
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