The Starving Time: The Wolf~Birds by Willow Dawson
DEEP IN THE WILD WINTER WOOD
WHEN THE SNOW FALLS AND
THE ICY WINDS BLOW,
TWO HUNGRY RAVENS HUDDLE
IN WAIT FOR THEIR NEXT MEAL.
It is the time of year some Indians call the Wolf Moon, for the hungry wolves that wail from the wooded hills. Some even call it the Starving Moon.
A pair of ravens huddle together on a bare branch, their heads capped with snow, waiting for the sun to rise and melt the snow just enough to show where the burrows of seed-collecting little animals lie. One raven pokes her head inside, as deep as she dares, hoping for a bite of something hidden there.
And nearby a pack of four wolves has caught the scent of a buffalo. They give chase, but the powerful bison kicks out at the lead wolf at his heels, and the hunter falls, dead.
THREE WOLVES MUST SAY GOODBYE.
The three wolves move on, always looking for food.
THEN THEY HEAR A FAMILIAR SOUND...
KAW KAW--THE SOUND OF HUNGRY RAVENS.
The ravens have seen something from their tree, a starving deer, limping and alone.
The wolves understand. They follow the ravens' call. The chase is brief.
ONE ANIMAL'S LIFE HELPS MANY OTHERS LIVE.
The wolves fill their empty bellies, and the ravens dart in to take their finder's fee. Then the ravens make their own cache for leftovers under the snow, and the wolves depart, carrying food back to their den where a mother is waiting, curled around her cubs.
THE STARVING WAIT FOR SPRING'S RETURN COMES TO AN END.
"Did you know ravens are also called wolf birds... because of the very special relationship they have shared with wolves," says author Willow Dawson, in her just published The Wolf-Birds (Owlkids Books, 2015). A powerful story of the cycle of life and the cycle of the seasons, this one also describes the cooperative relationship called mutualism between the clever scavenger birds and the predator wolves. Like black-hooded ninjas, the ravens of the far north act as spies for the wolf pack, infiltrating the woods, perching high and soaring over the landscape and leading the wolves to prey that the ravens cannot bring down but surely will share.
Life is hard in the far north, but this exquisitely designed and illustrated picture book's lovely style, limited palette, and fluid line has a stark beauty of its own. Even the visually striking endpapers reinforce the seasonal theme, opening with snow-drifted birch trunks and closing with budding twigs and new leaflets emerging as life goes on.
Dawson adds an explanatory author's note and a bibliography of her sources in creating this story.