HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Never Cry Wolf: The Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves
Author: Farley Mowat
Publisher: Back Bay Books, reprinted 2001
ISBN-13: 978-0316881791 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0316881791 Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0756982119 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0756982111 Hardcover
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: For ages 12 and up
Rating: *** 3 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Mowat, Farley. Never Cry Wolf: The Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves (published in 1963 by Little Brown and Company, 34 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02106; republished in 1979 by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 666 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10103). More than a half-century ago the Canadian Wildlife Service assigned the naturalist Farley Mowat to investigate why wolves were killing arctic caribou in subarctic Canada. Never Cry Wolf is Mowat’s record of the 1948–1949 time that he lived in the frozen tundra alone at Nueltin Lake, studying the wild wolf population while developing a deep affection for the wolves and for a friendly Inuit tribe known as the Ihalmiut (“People of the Deer”). In spite of common myths, the author decided that wolves were of no threat to caribou or man. Mowat has written some good stories that I have enjoyed, such as The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, The Curse of the Viking Grave, Owls in the Family, and Lost in the Barrens (or Two Against the North), which I have enjoyed.
Never Cry Wolf It has been credited for dramatically changing the public image of the wolf to a more positive one. However, while many parts of it were interesting, I really didn’t enjoy the book while I was reading it. Mowat does give a pretty good picture of how incompetent, unsympathetic government bureaucracies often work. However, critics claim that it is a highly fictionalized account of Mowat’s experience, even saying that it is a “bleeding heart story” and “a ridiculous misrepresentation of wolves as a whole” and that he was “lying to support an agenda. For example, the observation about wolves catching mice has supposedly never been corroborated by anyone. I am really not qualified to make any judgments on these types of issues.
Judging the book solely as a story, I find that it assumes an evolutionary view of earth’s history, though it is not highly promoted, and contains some “animal rights” concepts. As to language, the “d” and “h” words are used for cursing, and the phrase “My God” is found as an interjection. There are references to smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, and to help him get through the cold weather Mowat concocts his own alcoholic “wolf juice” using whiskey, which he shares with his Eskimo friends. The book was adapted into an American drama film of the same name in 1983 directed by Carroll Ballard, released under the new Walt Disney Pictures label, and starring Charles Martin Smith as a young, naive Canadian biologist named Tyler, thus further fictionalizing the story.