Firstborn

Tor Seidler. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4814-1017-5

The designation “firstborn” applies to several characters in Seidler’s animal adventure—the effervescent narrator, Maggie the magpie; Blue Boy, a wolf who accepts Maggie as an unofficial pack member; and Lamar, Blue Boy’s eldest son, who wrestles with familial duties and his unorthodox love for a coyote. After Maggie realizes that she is different from other magpies (“the thought of spending my whole life with Dan and his junk made me shudder”), she takes off to explore the wilderness of Montana and Wyoming just as wolves are being reintroduced to Yellowstone Park. National Book Award finalist Seidler illuminates a world full of beauty (“leaves had broken out of their buds, like butterflies out of their cocoons”), danger, and the struggle to survive: deaths come fast and frequent for predators and prey alike. Themes of self-acceptance, devotion, and integrity resonate as Maggie and others act on wisdom she learns from her first friend, Jackson the crow: “you can’t be loyal to others if you’re not loyal to your own nature first.” A moving acknowledgement of true friendship provides a heartwarming conclusion to this absorbing tale. Ages 9–14. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Mar.)
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