cover image Wild Voices

Wild Voices

Drew Nelson. Philomel Books, $15.95 (95pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21798-2

Seven interconnecting stories explore the precarious balance of power among creatures of the wild. Each animal relies upon its particular natural gifts (speed, sensory abilities, color, size) to find food, establish authority, defend territory, attack prey, avoid predators, give birth and prepare for death. Nelson achieves a taut, fluid narrative by allowing animal instincts to inform his characterizations, which also frees the text from the burdensome labels that seem to prevail in animal literature for children--there are no ``cute sheep'' nor ``bad wolves'' here. Readers will appreciate the fox's efforts to sneak into the henhouse to procure food; pages later they will eagerly follow the guard dog's attempt to trace the fox's scent back to her den. Humans make a peripheral but significant appearance, compensating for a relative lack of instinct by carrying guns; their pet dogs remind readers that man's best friend once lived in the wild. A few human emotions (worry, happiness, confidence) ascribed to the animals could be seen as awkward and out of place, and occasionally the text becomes somewhat heavy-handed (``All she asked was to feel his rough palm on her muzzle and to hear the brief word of reward''). But none of this seriously detracts from the book's absorbing blend of information and entertainment. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)