Title: The Wolf Wilder
Author: Katherine Rundell
Published by Bloomsbury, 2015
RRP: $12.99 (AUD)

Set in Russia before the revolution, this is the story of Feodora and her mother, both Wolf Wilders. A wolf pup fetches a lot of money, up to one thousand roubles, twice that much for a pure white one. Having a wolf as a pet is said to bring good fortune, but wolves cannot be tamed and are not meant to live in houses.

Wolves, like children, are not born to lead calm lives.
p. 2.

A wolf, when imprisoned, will eventually attack a person. However, killing a wolf is said to bring bad luck, so they are taken to the Wolf Wilder, to be taught how to live in the wild again, how to hunt, fight, and distrust humans. Feodora and her mother are such people, taking in wolves that are brought to them. They live an isolated life, staying away from others minding their own business, until the Tsar’s elks are attacked by wolves. Feodora’s mother is arrested and, after injuring the bully Rakov, Feodora runs for her life from her burning house. With some help from an unexpected ally, Feodora and her precious wolves set out for St Petersburg to free her mother.

This is a favourite read of mine. I love giving the book talk and seeing my students enjoy the book. The setting is so real, the landscape and climatic conditions penetrating the text. Feo is a tough young woman and their journey with the dogs is a long and tough one. Readers in middle school upwards will enjoy this read set in Russia.

Book Talk

Feodora lives with her mother in Russia. They are Wolf Wilders, they make wolves wild again after being brought up as pets by the rich. Wolves are not meant to be tamed, and cannot be tamed, for eventually they attack people. To kill a wolf will bring bad luck, so they are saved this fate and sent off to the Wolf Wilder. But when something attacks and kills one of the Tsar’s elks, Rakov from the Imperial Army threatens Feodora and her mother. When another animals is killed, they receive warning from Ilya, their friend in the army, and Feodora is preparing to put their escape plan into action:

Read page 78 to page 84, end of page.

Ilya joins Feodora and together they make the long journey to St Petersburg in the Russian winter. They are closely followed by Rakov, who is increasingly cruel and angry, and maybe even a little mad. They meet up with others who have met an awful fate from the army and together they seek revenge.

Possible teaching activities

  • Find Russia on map. Find the place names mentioned throughout the book.
  • Research St Petersburg.
  • Research Russian Imperial Army.
  • List possible research areas about wolves, such where they live, their place in history, their biology. Divide class into groups to research an area.

Teaching Notes can be downloaded from Bloomsbury here.