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The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

The Wolf Wilder

Katherine Rundell

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Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | One of our Books of the Year 2016 | September 2016 Book of the Month Wolves, wildness and freedom are at the heart of this thrilling story. Wolf wilders are employed to reintroduce wolves unfortunate enough to be brought up as pets in rich households back into the wild, and they’re easy to spot: they’ll be missing a piece of finger, the lobe of an ear, a toe or two. Feo and her mother are wolf wilders, content deep in the forest, at least until the arrival of General Rakov and the imperial army. Rakov treats their wolves with the same brutal contempt he shows to the peasants, and despite her reclusiveness, Feo finds herself fighting alongside her neighbours for what is right. ‘Wolves, like children, are not born to lead calm lives’ we are told and this a marvellous adventure, original, beautifully written, and full of scenes and ideas that will excite and inspire young readers. ~ Andrea Reece

A note from Katherine Rundell …
My father is a great storyteller. When we were very young he left for work at 7 a.m., so he used to wake us up at 6 a.m. and tell us stories from history: the World Wars, the slave trade and the Russian revolution. (Sometimes my understanding of the stories in my life blurred, and when I picture William Wilberforce he will always look like Wilbur, the mouse in Brambly Hedge.) My father’s picture of Russia was one of deep snow and rich food, and of revolutionaries fighting, with very mixed success, for fairness. There would always be a pair of children at the centre of the stories – who looked, coincidentally, very like my brother and me – two children who joined the fight with both fists. My dad’s stories made us feel taller, and hungrier: more capable of changing the world.
The Wolf Wilder is a book built by those early stories: though it’s less a history than a fairy-tale kind of adventure informed by history. I wanted to write a book that was a little darker than the last, and a little wilder. I wanted to write about different kinds of bravery, with, I hope, an edge of danger. Most of all, I wanted to write a story about a child learning to trust other people: about a child discovering that the world is huge, and full of spectacular people. Feo, more than any other character I’ve written, is how I felt as a child: awkward and wary, but hoping always for friendship and for snow. The plot was made up of things I’ve seen or discovered and loved. The central city of the book is St Petersburg because my grandfather lived there in the years before his death, on the banks of the Fontanka canal, in the building in which (he used to claim) Tchaikovsky wrote The Nutcracker. My grandfather was so obviously and resolutely English that KGB spies used to tail him to church, convinced he was MI5. There was a small ballroom in which, as a teenager, I danced (with an immense lack of grace). So there is dancing in this book, both good and bad, and the great golden domes of St Petersburg. The story is set in the snow because snow has a life of its own: I spent one white winter in rural Scotland, in an old unoccupied shooting lodge. I went weeks without seeing another human. When the pipes froze, I boiled snow for tea. I lit fires, read books, ate icicles and mussels from the lake, and tinned meat. When the worst storms of that year came, I was rescued by an army truck and sent home. I learnt a lot about the different varieties of cold you can be. Later, I read about a Russian recluse who, in the 1970s, used to run barefoot for days through snow with elks slung over his back, and realised I was only a novice at the cold. But I have rarely in my life been so happy. The wilding of animals is a real thing: there is a programme in Zimbabwe, not far from where I spent part of my childhood, where tame lions are taught to feed themselves. And in Yellowstone park they are trying to coax wolves back into the wild. Wolves are the heroes of this book because I think wolves, more than any other animal, are electric. I met a mostly tame one on a cold day in Wales. They really do look nothing like dogs: their shoulders are more muscular and their eyes sharper. They radiate intelligence. They deserve our respect. There are many stories about wolves already, but I think they will always deserve a few more.

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can read their full reviews by clicking here.

  • Francesca Hopkins - 'I found The Wolf Wilder very thrilling and exciting, it was a beautifully vivid story, really hard to put down I love it!'
  • Rosie Watch - 'one of the most compelling and vivid childrens' books that I have read in some time.'
  • Poppy Stephens, age 11 - 'The wolf wilder is an amazing book I loved it so much, it was very creative and imaginative yet it also had some historical accuracy. It is very well written and I couldn't put it down!'
  • Sam Harper, age 11 - 'A snowy, action-packed adventure full of wild animals and excitement. If you like thrilling animal stories you’ll love this.'
  • Erica Motoc, age 9 - 'The Wolf Wider is a page turner, you can barely stop to have your dinner!'
  • Brodie Greenslade, age 9 - 'The Wolf Wilder is an exciting story about a girl and her friends who try to save both the wolves and the people of Russia from the threat of the Russian Army.'
  • Celeste Phelan, age 13 - 'An original read but with the authority of an established classic.'
  • Emily Lonsdale, age 9 - 'I liked this book because it was exciting, you didn't know what was going to happen next and my Mum also enjoyed it. It was a new subject to read about and I would read it again and recommend it to other friends.'
  • Alex Hall, age 9 - 'This story was well written. It captured my imagination.  It was a wild story of adventure, hiding and rebellion.  I enjoyed the story because I like nature & adventure.'
  • Isbael Kardos-Stowe, age 11 - 'I think this is a good book for both boys and girls of all ages. I would rate it 7/10.'
  • Maia Fuller, age 10 - 'I think that this book is amazing and would recommend it to all KS2’s. I love the character of Feo and enjoyed reading her adventures as a wolf wilder.'

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The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.


A triumph! Exciting, moving, highly original, fierce, completely convincing Philip Pullman

The Wolf Wilder has everything: it's a truly compelling read; it's beautifully written; it's totally original and yet has the familiar feel of an established classic Jacqueline Wilson

The most exciting new children's novel for a decade ... [Rundell] is a master storyteller in the Philip Pullman category -- Amanda Craig The Independent

Wolves, snow and a heroine worthy of comparison to Lyra Belacqua. It's no mean feat to follow a novel as lauded as Rooftoppers, but Rundell has done it in great style -- Editor's Choice 20th March 2015 The Bookseller, Children's Special

This is glorious. A haunting, fast-paced snowy adventure with another superb gutsy heroine told in Rundell's beautiful and witty style -- A Case for Books

The Wolf Wilder is the kind of novel that reminds you why books are worth reading and life is worth living Lauren St John

The Wolf Wilder is Katherine Rundell's best book yet - precise, magical and wise - it's a story that will stay with you for a long time after you've read it. I absolutely loved it Sarah Crossan

A gorgeous flight of imagination set in a snowy Russian fantasy world, this has both the beauty and the fierce, funny and uncompromising storytelling style that sets Katherine Rundell's books apart. The Wolf Wilder is a Faberge egg of a novel - rich, bright and perfect Robin Stevens

Just finished [the] sparkling, biting, deep-furred, snow-layered, paintbox bright The Wolf Wilder. Absolutely loved it. Gorgeous Hilary McKay

Come for the magical storytelling, stay for the breathtaking prose: a new Katherine Rundell novel is always a cause for celebration. The Wolf Wilder is, in a word, extraordinary Katherine Applegate The hero of Katherine Rundell's new book may be young and small, but Feo has a spirit as wild and dauntless as that of the wolves she cares for. I don't know whether this irresistible force of nature and the colourful gang of waifs drawn to her had an actual hand in starting the Russian Revolution, but Rundell convinced me that they did. The Wolf Wilder is chilling (quite literally!) and thrilling from start to finish Tor Seidler, author of Mean Margaret and Firstborn

About the Author

Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell was born in 1987 and grew up in Africa and Europe. In 2008 she was elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her first book,The Girl Savage, was born of her love of Zimbabwe and her own childhood there; her second, Rooftoppers,was inspired by summers working in Paris and by night-time trespassing on the rooftops of All Souls. She is currently working on her doctorate alongisde an adult novel.

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Book Info


336 pages
Interest Age: From 9 years


Katherine Rundell
More books by Katherine Rundell


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

8th September 2016




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