Author-illustrator Willow Dawson’s latest work pays homage to ravens, known as “wolf-birds” due to their unique relationship with lupines, which is believed to have begun thousands of years ago. The story, told in spare text, follows the two species as they strive to keep starvation at bay “deep in the wild winter wood.”
As two ravens search for caches of buried food, they hear howling in the distance. Four wolves are hunting a bison, which escapes after it pierces one wolf in the stomach with its hind legs. The pack is down a member and still without food when the cawing of the ravens catches their attention. The birds lead the way to nearby prey, which their canine co-hunters kill. Both species get a reprieve from the starving wait for spring’s arrival as bird and beast alike partake in a feast of fresh deer.
Loss of life is a harsh but inevitable reality in a chronicle of the predator-prey relationship. Dawson is open and honest in addressing death, yet describes it in a subtle and sensitive manner (“Three wolves must say goodbye” and “one animal’s life helps many others live”). Her stylized acrylic paintings, resembling graphica, accompany the scientifically accurate yet gently poetic text. The result is a book that brings its subject to life in an unconventional fashion, and offers a refreshing and reflective addition to the natural-world bookshelf.