Review: The Wolves of Currumpaw

wolvesIf it’s fair to say that Shackleton’s Journey – William Grill’s extraordinary award-winning debut – raised the bar, then you can only conclude that his follow-up has taken the bar, twisted it unrecognisably, flung it repeatedly round in circles and hurled it far into the stratosphere.  The bar has been obliterated.  It is no more.

The Wolves of Currumpaw re-tells a story from nineteenth century New Mexico where man, or more specifically white man, is pitched first against Native American and then against wolf.  Hunters pursue Lobo, the fierce and evasive leader of his pack, using poison, traps and every deceptive ounce they can muster to track and destroy him.

It is a eulogy to the wildest and most misunderstood parts of nature.  And it is also a story of redemption, as it is Ernest Seton’s story being told – the hunter who, after his deadly encounter with the wolf, is transformed, re-born; he kills no more and dedicates his life to conservation.

Much of what makes this book so good – a bar-hurler if you will – is its simplicity. The drawings are uncomplicated and are sketched out using coloured pencils. The grand, sweeping landscape is often marked with the duller hues of brown, grey and green. The sky is bolder with light blues, pinkish reds and darker grey-blacks.

His writing has an unfussy clarity which is incredibly easy to read (and incredibly hard to write). The eye washes over each word and each page, as if in a dream. Nothing jars or jolts, nothing detracts from the story being told.  The words lead seamlessly to the pictures and the pictures lead seamlessly back to the words, like the ebb and flow of a tide.

What makes this book brilliant – a bar-smasher – is the way Grill has blended and merged different genres to create something that is uniquely his own. Fact and fiction, word and picture become one.  It’s a book full of wisdom – it is beyond categorisation and beyond compare.

Hats must be doffed at this point to Flying Eye Books.  I know of no other publisher that is consistently producing such exceptionally crafted books.  They are doing amazing work and their books will become modern classics.

A copy of this book was provided by the publishers. 

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