Why “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” Should be Added to Reading Lists

By Miranda Todd

Babies being shot (Steinbeck), children committing ritualistic murders (Golding) and apathetic teens with no moral founding (Salinger); all topics touched on in popular books, and all books that have been read in high school classes. Considered ‘classics’, they provide a good conversation in the classroom—which, for some teachers, may very well be the goal. However, for those that realize there are ways outside of emotional trauma to get a group of students talking, they may not have to look far. Tell The Wolves I’m Home, a 2012 novel written by Carol Rifka Brunt, could be the addition to classroom productivity and interest teachers have been looking for.

 

One of the Common Core “Reading Standards for Literature” for students in grades 9-10 mentions that a student should be able to analyze themes of mystery, tension, or surprise. Pertaining to the ‘mystery’ aspect of this requirement, a running theme of the novel Tell The Wolves I’m Home involves a stranger who approaches the main character, June Elbus, and gradually becomes closer to her. The full identity of this character is not explained until further on in the book, allowing interesting discussion pertaining his relation to the main character, and why he approached her in the first place.

 

Another of the Common Core standards involves analyzing a ‘particular cultural experience’. The Wolves’ central theme is AIDS, an epidemic that rocked the world. The book allows us a view into the emotional turmoil involved with the disease, but also the actual individual people who were affected. It helps young adults and teens understand and think about a difficult topic, one that is rarely truly addressed, even by adults. Wrapped up in this serious issue is the character development over the course of the text. Several characters, including June herself, begin as biased individuals, terrified of somehow getting the disease. This accurately reflects the now antiquated and sadly ignorant ideas of the time, managing to shed light on the shortcomings of this ignorance, but also showing the reason behind it.

 

Beside these reasons it is safe to say that, despite the older setting, The Wolves is not your standard classic. While it touches on some of the same struggles—loneliness, fear, struggle—it never becomes too dark, never becomes too slow, too lost in description. It manages to keep a student’s attention in a way that classic novels, such as The Pearl, don’t. Hard subjects are painted with a light, detailed hand, and though it has all the components of a classic novel, it is not bogged down by any of the usual shortcomings. As The New York Time’s writer Jonathan Evison stated, “Brunt writes about family, adolescence, and the human heart with great candor, insight, and pathos.” That makes it relatable to a young audience.

 

However, the book is not for everyone. Certain themes, such as the somewhat romantic relationship between June and her uncle, and the poor role models in general, may not appeal to teachers for classroom study. And while most students in ninth and tenth grade would be mature enough, some might be unhappy or uninterested in some of the themes. Still, overall, the book fits in with Common Core standards and would make a good addition to many classrooms.

 

Works Cited

Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell The Wolves I’m Home. Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2012. Print.

Evison, Johnathan. New York Times. n.d. 2 November 2014.

Golding, William. The Lord of the Flies. Faber and Faber, 1954. Print.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher In The Rye. Bantam Books, 1961. Print.

Steinbeck, John. The Pearl. New York: Viking, 1947. Print.

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