Wolfstongue

Publisher: Little Island Books

Silas finds it hard to speak, especially at school, where bullies taunt him for his difficulty making words. Yet, one day, when he meets a talking wolf, Silas becomes embroiled in a world he never knew existed: where foxes have built an underground city, enslaving wolves in the process.

Isengrim, his mate Hersent and their pups are the only wolves left, and they want Silas to become their Wolfstongue: a legendary human who will help them regain their independence.

Every now and again, a remarkable new children’s book comes along which is a pleasure to read, isn’t too long, and is filled with a sense of profound meaning and significance without ever feeling preachy. Wolfstongue is precisely this: a pacy adventure which also thinks deeply about what it is to have a voice, what it means to be without one, and how language can be used for control.

Silas finds it difficult to speak in the human world, but among the wolves, his words come readily. The foxes have taught language to the wolves and given them names, and in so doing, have found a way to control their wild natures. Language itself is very much a theme here: both who it empowers (the foxes; Silas’s fox-like school bullies) and the self-doubt we can feel if we can’t find the right words. Yet, the wolves seek to return to the days before they had speech and don’t want it at all.

Sam Thompson was inspired to write Wolfstongue after his son developed speech difficulties, and Silas’ experience of the same thing may feel familiar to some readers. Silas’ speech difficulties are not in themselves the focus of the story, but he is able to use his voice to help the wolves, nonetheless. There are no easy answers for Silas when he returns to the human world, but, as the wolves say, one who finds words difficult also understands their power like no other.

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