cover image Circus of the Wolves

Circus of the Wolves

Jack Bushnell. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12554-7

Kael, a black timber wolf, joins the Summerson-Appleby Circus ``quite by accident'' when he tumbles into a pit while hunting near the shore of Lake Superior. The wolf is trapped and caged and trained to perform with a group of domesticated wolves, but even his compassionate, painstaking handler cannot appease his yearning to be free. The trainer prompts Kael to howl, then Kael teaches the tame, dull-eyed wolves to sing from the center ring so that the audience is ``drenched by sound . . . caught in the rush of mountain night music, a downhill rush that deepened and grew grander with each note.'' Eventually, another accident permits Kael to escape from his cage, with the reluctant blessings of the trainer (``Go. If I were you, I would do the same''). First-timer Bushnell's story is impassioned, but its premise is murky and its presentation is exaggerated. Parker contributes watercolors in the same sketchy style as those in Full Worm Moon (reviewed above); here, however, their luminosity is dimmed a bit by the book design, which sets full-page pictures facing page-length text blocks, and frames both in lifeless gray borders. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)