cover image At the Edge of the Forest

At the Edge of the Forest

Jonathan London. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0014-3

Initially, this appears to be a quiet book: London's (Let the Lynx Come In) lilting voice and Firth's (Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?) amiably lit watercolor illustrations of snow blanketing a tidy, familiar farmstead establish a pastoral mood. But the tone is soon disturbed by conflict. The narrator, a sheep farmer's son, has heard about coyotes well before he spots tracks in the snow. His father has said, ""If they come too close they'll be dead. Coyotes kill sheep."" But when he crosses paths with a coyote, the boy is stirred by unexpected feelings: ""My eyes burned with that glimpse of Coyote. I was slow to turn back home."" Early one spring morning, father and son wake to cries from the barn, then ""tufts of wool dyed blood red."" A lamb is missing. With his son close behind, the father stalks the coyote. But, just as he is about to pull the trigger, the coyote's pups swarm into view, compelling a more moderate solution (the father decides to get a dog to guard the sheep) and a heartwarming denouement. London knows just how to kindle the audience's concern and stoke his drama; Firth provides a calm counterpoint. Author and artist skillfully soften a harsh reality without blunting it. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)