The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park Reviews

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Baker & Taylor’s CATS Meow Newsletter Staff Pick

“The Wolves Return is both a beautifully and a realistically illustrated picture book. It offers young readers just the right amount of text and back story to give them a complete picture of the purposeful reintroduction of gray wolves in 1995-1996 to Yellowstone National Park without getting too fact-heavy. Publishing 20 years after this historic return, the effects of the wolves return on other species and plant life throughout the park are laid out spread by spread in full scenes featuring various habitats throughout the park. Take note of author and illustrator Godkin’s attention to detail in the bird illustrations found throughout; all species are native (or migrate) to Yellowstone, and she includes trumpeter swans, a mountain bluebird, a robin, mallards, a pair of yellowheaded blackbirds, yellow warblers, black-billed magpies, and many more. Other species of animals are just as well represented. Keep your eye on Pajama Press; now wrapping up their 5th year, they continue to expand their list of high-quality offerings for young readers. A highly recommended title for future conservationists ages 5-8.”
—Erica Sommer, CATS-Paw Prints Manager

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Ingram News and Reviews for the Youth Librarian

“The last sentence of The Wolves Return perfectly sums up the message of this lovely nonfiction picture book: “Who would have thought that the return of a few wolves could have benefitted so many other animals?” Godkin succinctly outlines the species that have enjoyed success as a result of the return of the wolf to Yellowstone: the wolves keep the elk population in check -> more tree seedlings and berry bushes grow -> birds and bears now have food and shelter and beavers have trees to build dams-> dammed water creates ponds -> ponds harbor fish and insects that feed herons, otters, and osprey -> and so on. Young readers will enjoy seeing all the animals and plants that now flourish as a result of one change in an ecosystem. Godkin’s illustrations, created with pencil crayon and watercolor, are all two-page spreads and just beautiful. Recommended for ages 5 to 8….”
—Becky Walton, MLIS, Collection Development

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School Library Journal

“For many decades, wolves were absent from Yellowstone National Park. About 20 years ago, captured wolves from Canada were reintroduced into the park by environmentalists….Beautifully illustrated by the author in watercolor and color pencil, each spread brims with the diversity of animals, plants, and insects presently thriving in Yellowstone. Young ones will enjoy the positive takeaway, and the picture book format makes a complex story accessible and usable in a wide range of early education classes. VERDICT Valuable for children for its affirming environmental message and to counteract the ‘big bad wolf’ image of these necessary predators.”
–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

Read the full review in the February 2017 issue of School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

Godkin eloquently examines how the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park led to dramatic changes both in the landscape of the park and in the lives of the creatures that make their home there.Godkin’s text focuses on the interconnectedness of the animals’ environment and how one ostensibly small change can have dramatic effects over time. Although the author emphasizes the necessary role that predators play, her mixed-media artwork avoids goriness, instead focusing on delicate textures of fur, feather, leaf, and grass. The hunts that removed wolves from the landscape in the first place (and their 1995 reintroduction) are covered in thorough back matter. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)”

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Booklist Online

“…Tranquil wildlife scenes in soft, naturalistic colors are full of meticulous details and capture the majestic beauty of the iconic park, which teems with life. The clear, matter-of-fact text is a lovely complement to the warm scenes, which include vistas, underwater habitats, and close-ups. Additional information about the history of the park and the importance of the wolves to the ecosystem closes this lovingly illustrated, educational volume.”
—Anita Lock

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CM Magazine FOUR STAR Review

“…The Wolves Return is another book by the environmental writer/illustrator Celia Godkin. Her previous book, Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World, also addressed the recovery of an endangered species. Thirteen Canadian wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and a further ten the following year. Enough time has now passed to fully appreciate the positive effects that the re-introduction of this one species has had on the entire ecological system. This has been a triumph of environmental science and a perfect example to cover in a book for children.

The story is written in uncomplicated language and is overwhelmingly positive in both tone and presentation. The first page describes the reaction of the animals as the wolves arrive, placing this event within the normal course of life. Then the consequences are given one at a time, including the increase of biodiversity due to the return of many plants and animals that had disappeared after the wolves were extirpated many years ago. This is not a scientific description, rather an inspiring look at the results.

The final pages of the book give the historical and scientific background of the story. There is enough information here that older children can embrace the story while even young children interested in the topic of wolves and conservation can go further and learn more. Together with the story, the addition of this material gives a complete portrayal of the issue.

The illustrations are beautifully rendered, moving and evocative. They increase the emotional impact of the words, showing many creatures against the natural backgrounds of the park. Pictures make the connections more clear: trees have allowed birds to nest and reproduce, water plants have given insects and frogs places to live and hide. The interdependence of species is made explicit throughout the book adding depth and scope.

The Wolves Return is a handsome book with an uplifting environmental message, one that avoids sounding like a textbook. The book will be great addition to any personal, classroom or school library. It will appeal to anyone already interested in conservation and could appeal to many others with the reference to the highly dramatic wolves on the cover. While intended for those in the early grades, there is enough here to interest older readers.

Highly Recommended.
—Willow Moonbeam

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Resource Links

“Celia Godkin relays the awe-inspiring true story of the release of 23 Canadian gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996….

Since the time of the release, the wolves thrived and the process created beneficial changes to the park’s ecosystem….

The illustrations are beautifully done in pencil crayon and watercolour….[Godkin’s] telling of this true environmental success story is well told and inspirational. It is important to relay such stories. The end of the book has the fascinating history of the wolf in North America with a map.

Thematic Links: Wolves; Yellowstone National Park; Yellowstone Wolf Project; Gray Wolves; Ecosystem”
Isobel Lang

Read the full review on page 20 of the April 2017 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“This could be complicated subject matter for younger audiences to assimilate, but Celia Godkin, acclaimed environmental writer and illustrator for children, has presented the material persuasively in clear, direct language. From the initial release of the wolves, it is systematically shown how one change in the ecosystem leads to the next, leaving readers in awe of the fascinating chain of life and fragile balance of nature.

The text is enhanced by compelling, vivid illustrations. Thirteen double-page spreads reveal different habitats within the park, such as woodland and ponds, each populated by various new species of wildlife….There is also a two-page summary explaining the wolves’ extinction in the United States and a brief explanation of the project.

Aimed at young children, adults and older children will also find wonder and a salutary message in this handsome book that prompts much thought on the complexity and resilience of nature.”
—Aileen Wortley

Read the full review on page 23 in the Summer 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

ILA Literacy Daily, “STEM Stories”

“With an engaging, accessible text and expressive mixed-media illustrations, Godkin tells the environmental success story of the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park….An endnote, ‘The Wolf in North America,’ provides history of the wolf and a map of the pre-European and current North American wolf range.”

Click here to read the full list of “STEM Stories” from ILA Literacy Daily

Midwest Book Review

The Wolves Return is the true story of the successful release of twenty-three Canadian gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park in 1995-96….The Wolves Return explains in picture and in narrative how the reintroduction of the wolves, a natural predator of the elk, impacted positively on the whole environment….The Wolves Return ends with a map of North America with wolf ranges, both current and pre-European habitat patterns. It is clear that wolves play a vital role in maintaining the health, variety, and balance of many life systems and plant and animal species in nature. The mixed media art work in The Wolves Return is especially sensitively done and greatly enhances the exciting environmental health restoration true story.”

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Midwest Book Review

The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park is a children’s nonfiction picturebook about the wildlife of the Yellowstone National Park in America….A beautifully illustrated book about the interconnected web of natural life, The Wolves Return is highly recommended for personal, school, and public library collections.”

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Kids’ BookBuzz

“We rated this book: [4.5/5]…

I loved The Wolves Return. I visited Yellowstone a few years ago and got to see all different kinds wildlife: black bears, grizzlies, bison, eagles, foxes, and elk. I think it was a good idea for Canada to give some wolves to Yellowstone or they wouldn’t have wolves to balance the elk herds. I loved the illustrations because they looked so real and had a lot of details. The author is also the illustrator. I would like to read other books by this author.”
—Jewel – Age 9

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“I know a science teacher whose go-to book to introduce interrelationships of living things and the balance of natural ecosystems is Celia Godkin’s award-winning book Wolf Island (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1989/2006). I encourage a new generation of science teachers to look to her new book The Wolves Return to demonstrate those same concepts as they relate to the wolves of Yellowstone National Park and spark a new appreciation for the natural world with an aim to stewardship and not manipulation.

The Wolves Return documents in prose and detailed illustrations the impacts of the Yellowstone Wolf Project on the local habitats and wildlife, celebrating the success of reintroducing the wolves here.

But the way Celia Godkin tells the story is not to just lay out that bare facts as many unseasoned writers might but instead to provide visual commentary, in words and pictures, of what would have been happening….

Celia Godkin illustrates the complex and sophisticated food webs–not just food chains–and evolving landscape of habitats but punctuates the story with the science of the return of the wolves in her appendices.

The scientist in Celia Godkin–she has a Master’s degree in zoology–comes through in the precision of her illustrations but her coloured pencil and watercolour fine art is more expressive than just a record of the living ecosystem. She gives life to the organisms and places within The Wolves Return, though I know that young readers will be amazed by her detailed and accurate depictions of the animals.

Just like Wolf IslandThe Wolves Return should become a teacher’s primary picture book for introducing discussions about habitats and communities, the diversity of living things and interactions with ecosystems. With The Wolves Return, Celia Godkin is able to inform, fascinate and initiate dialogue about the world we impact in both negative and positive ways and how it can gloriously amend itself sometimes with just a tiny bit of help.”

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Sals Fiction Addiction

“Celia Godkin does a truly admirable job of presenting the [Yellowstone Park] project in terms children will understand. The language is clear, the telling is positive and brings awareness for the remarkable results….

Those changes are portrayed in detailed mixed media artwork. The double page spreads clearly show the park and its dramatic change – all through the introduction of the gray wolf. The settings beautifully display the grandeur of the park, and the interdependence of the species living there. Don’t miss having a close look at the endpapers. The illustrations there may result in further research for interested children.

Written for a younger audience, it will have impact for older readers as well. While much is learned about biodiversity and the environment, it is presented in a most appealing format. Never did I feel that it was written to teach me something. It is simply a story of life in a very special environment.”

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Youth Services Book Review

“…What did you like about the book? This book illustrates the effect that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has had on the ecosystem. The book demonstrates that predators at the top of the food chain have a profound impact.…The illustrations of the wildlife are beautifully rendered in lush colors. The book contains more information on “The Wolf in North America,” including a map, at the back. The end pages are filled with illustrations and the names of the plants and animals that are mentioned in the book. This is a great introduction for younger children to the impacts of animals on our world.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? This is a nice way to introduce ecosystems to young children. It could be used for school reports for lower elementary school children….
—Catherine Coyne

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The Reading Castle

“…The wolves return by Celia Godkin, biologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto as well as award-winning author and illustrator, explains the journey of reintroducing wild wolves to Yellowstone and the consecutive changes in the environments of the park in kid-friendly words….

Ecology is a complex topic, but Celia Godkin does a great job with explaining biological correlations to children from preschool to middle school age. Her texts are easy to understand, without complicated technical terms or terminology. What wakes the love for nature are her artwork: True-to-life pencil and watercolor illustrations capture the attention of children and adults from the first page on. It’s hard for an expert to explain scientific topics in easy words and almost impossible to find the right words suitable and plausible for children. Celia Godkin does an expert job! The appendix of the book gives a short overview of the history of wolves in the US and is a great add on for older children, teacher and parents.

Our daughter loved The wolves return. She is interested in nature in general and loves wolves…It was really enjoyable to teach her about one of her favorite animals and the development of an ecosystem within a short time span….I can just guess what a great resource this book is for homeschooling parents or teachers! The publisher also provides a teaching guide, which was unfortunately not online yet at time of this review.

Long story short: The wolves return is a great non-fiction book with an environmental message for children every age. It’s a great way to raise children who love nature and are sensible to the ecological problems. The wolves return is another wonderful children’s book by Pajama Press, an independent publisher from Canada.”

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Geo Librarian

“…Due to the hard work and dedication of various scientists and organizations, wolves have returned to Yellowstone National Park. Godkin documents the changes that have come about because of that act….My favorite aspect of the book though are the beautiful illustrations that give the reader a peek into the natural world of the wolf. The additional information and photographs at the end of the book are certainly a great boon for teachers and other users who want to know more about the topic.”

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Orange Marmalade Books

“[T]he complex, interactive webs which rely on biodiversity are critical to a healthy planet and to our health as humans….

By hunting [grey] wolves to the point of near-extinction settlers unwittingly disturbed the timeworn balance that had allowed all sorts of plants, animals and waterways to flourish. This lovely book shows how each piece began to be renewed as wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone beginning in 1995.

Each turn of the page shows another glory of nature able to perform again its vivid song, as the positive, un-domino effect takes place. What a hopeful, gladsome journey! Share this with children ages 4 and up.”

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Library of Clean Reads

“We are always amazed at how much we learn from children’s non-fiction books. This one is an educational and excellent portrayal of the value of wolves in maintaining a healthy wildlife and ecosystem.

Our Review:

Reviewed by Sandra Olshaski

Who couldn’t love this book about the value of wolves? From the pencil crayon and watercolour illustrations to the beautiful text, it’s an amazing book for both adults and children. It highlights how very important are all creatures and how one animal alone contributes to a thriving natural world….

The colourful illustrations will certainly appeal to children, especially those who are already animal lovers. I appreciate the information pages regarding the history of wolves in North America. I can’t say enough about this beautiful book that contains such important life lessons. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Laura Fabiani and Son

It’s a sad reality that most city children have never seen live wild animals (except perhaps at the zoo) or know much about them. Both my son and I were surprised by how much we enjoyed and learned from reading this book. With clear informative text and beautiful illustrations, the author has succeeded in teaching us that large predators play a vital role in the health of the ecosystems where they live….

Children who are animal lovers will especially enjoy the depictions of the various animals…My son and I enjoyed this book and we especially liked that on the front and back inside covers are the names and illustrations of all the plants and animals in the book.

This book should be included in all school libraries and can be used when teaching science and nature in elementary schools. An excellent addition to a home library too.”

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BookTime

The Wolves Return, A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park by Celia Godkin is a beautiful book…It was fascinating to read about how much the area changed, both in diversity of the creatures…to the health of the animals that always lived there.”

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