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Howl

by Karen Hood-Caddy

Following her mother’s death, 12-year-old Robin finds her family transplanted from Winnipeg to her grandmother’s rural home in Ontario’s cottage country. While Robin’s father continues working as a veterinarian and her teenaged sister and young brother seem happy to settle into their new surroundings, Robin feels numb, and gives up on the very things she cared about most in her old life: animals and the environment.

When her dog, Relentless, falls through the ice, Robin begins to find herself again. She helps rescue the dog and learns to care for the litter of puppies Relentless gives birth to soon afterward. Before long the barn has been transformed into a makeshift animal shelter, and Robin, her brother, and her grandmother take turns caring for a menagerie of needy wildlife, including everything from a baby bear with a broken arm to a litter of infant skunks whose mother was killed by a car. Bit by bit, Robin’s passion for animals and the environment returns, and with her grandmother’s help, she begins to overcome both her grief and her fears.

With a background in social work and self-empowerment coaching, author Karen Hood-Caddy offers a unique and multidimensional perspective on the aftermath of grief. While the mother’s death remains at the centre of the story, Hood-Caddy doesn’t forget that the normal challenges of family and pre-teen life still exist. Robin’s teenaged sister is changing and acting out in all the expected ways, and Robin herself has to negotiate a new school, a new crush, and the bully who lives next door.

Hood-Caddy’s previous titles for adults focused on strong female protagonists against a backdrop of environmental issues, and Howl delivers a similar package, introducing young readers to a broad spectrum of ecology, animal rights, and political activism.