Howling Hill

Will Hobbs, Author, Jill Kastner, Illustrator HarperCollins $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-688-15429-5

Hobbs delivered a wintertime survival tale in his YA novel Far North; here he brings that same type of suspenseful adventure to picture book format. His protagonist this time, however, is no adolescent but a wolf pup. Somewhat anthropomorphizing his characters, Hobbs sets up a problem for Hanni straightaway: a la Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket, she can't howl (""Don't worry,"" her mother tells her. ""It's inside of you...somewhere deep inside.""). Then mishap overtakes her. While playing on a log in the river, Hanni is separated from her family and swept fast away. She plunges bravely into the water (and discovers she can swim) just before reaching a deadly waterfall. A bear drifting in and out of hibernation helps her most of the way home; returning to the apparently deserted Howling Hill, Hanni finally finds her voice and howls for the first time and thus summons the pack. The coming-of-age theme overloads the story a bit, but the tension stays strong. Kastner, previously paired with Hobbs for Beardream, contributes exciting, motion-filled oils. Rendered in broad, blurry strokes, her wolves and bears are realistic, with only some subtle posing to give Hanni the occasional childlike attitude. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)
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