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The Sea Wolves by I. McAllister

McAllister, Ian, and Nicholas Read. The Sea Wolves: Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest. Vancouver: Orca, 2010. Print

At first glance, The Sea Wolves is a small coffee table book. It is not, however, just a pretty photographic exploration of the wolves that inhabit The Great Bear Rainforest. It is a very long opinion piece written expressly to convince readers that wolves are not “the big bad wolf” of stories; rather, we should all love and respect them. Authors Ian McAllister, a founding director of both the Raincoast Conservation Society and Pacific Wild, and Nicholas Read, a journalist, pull no punches in their attempt to sway the reader.

While the book does present facts about the wolves and their environment, many of them likely accurate, the authors make sweeping statements and claims which they require the reader to accept at face value. For example, though the authors state that there is “a great deal of evidence to suggest that over-fishing, fish farms and climate change have all played a role in [the wolves’] decline,” this statement does not direct the reader to any evidence.

Part of the purpose of the book is to educate the reader about the wolves; however, it is also clearly designed to manipulate the readers’ emotions. The authors attempt to get the reader to identify with the wolves through anthropomorphizing the animals and by drawing extensive parallels between the lives of wolves and the lives of people. For example, they state that the reason that wolves save the “tastiest deer” for their young pups “could be because, just as in human families, wolf families like to spoil their babies.” Furthermore, throughout the book, the authors choose emotionally-laden words and images, stating, for example, that wolves “have been persecuted by humans, with a kind of madness,” or that they “romp on the beach in the ocean foam that burbles off the waves like bubble bath.” Each interpretation of the wolves’ behaviour seems designed to achieve the desired effect of garnering sympathy for the creatures.

While there is nothing wrong with writing a polemic against the dangers to wolves and their environment, this book is presented by the publisher as juvenile non-fiction for ages 8 and up. Children in upper elementary or even junior high school grades may have difficulty distinguishing between facts and strongly-worded opinions presented in a book labelled as non-fiction.

Recommended: Three stars out of four
Reviewer: Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.