The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
Opening sentence: ‘Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there lived a dark and stormy girl.’
Technically, this is classed as a children’s book, but a great story is a great story, and if Harry Potter has taught us anything, it is that being a children’s book will not be a barrier to adults everywhere reading it.
Peppered throughout with the most beautiful black and white illustrations by Gelrev Ongbico, this is the story of a Russian girl named Feodora and her love of wolves, specifically Black, White and Grey, her trio of loyal companions. She lives with her mother in the middle of the forest and they are Wolf Wilders – retraining wolves that have been used as house pets by Russian aristocracy and then discarded, they show the wolves how to live in the wild again.
When the military take her mother to prison, Feodora (with her wolves) have no choice but to attempt a rescue. She is helped by a brazen gang of children she meets in a neighbouring village, led by the enigmatic Alexi.
A whimsical, fairytale quality runs through the narrative, from the ‘Once upon a time’ opening to the snow covered forest setting, and even the pairing of the red hooded riding cloak and wolves on the cover (pictured below) but there is a darker tone mixed through, it does not shy away from death and injustice, but despite this, and most heart-warmingly of all, it is also the story of how a little girl can be big enough to start a revolution.
Any book that taps into your emotional core is going to be one that sticks in your memory and I think the fact that I got many quizzical glances while crying on the train reading this, means it will be one I never forget.