She Wolf by local Dan Smith was our Children’s Book of the Month for May. But Smith wasn’t the only thing local about the book, it was set in Northumberland. Alright it was 866 A.D. and technically back in those days it was called Northumbria, but still!
“Northumbria, 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.
But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?“
I have to say how clever of Smith to set She Wolf in the time of the Vikings, a topic on just about every school syllabus? Teachers looking for reading material around the vikings look no further! References to the Norsk Gods, the history between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings and even their trading in slaves are brilliantly included.
Being local to us the children’s book club spent some time discussing the setting. How Northumbria was bigger then than it is today, the places we recognised, and how their lives were different to ours (no wifi!) We also discussed the themes of the book, taking our cue from each section heading. Discussing how a theme is different to the actual story line and how it can be incorporated into a book and embellish the characters/plot.
Obviously talk turned to wolves, particularly She Wolf Ylva. I particularly loved how Ylva struggled emotionally and had her coping mechanisms such as Geri and pulling her hair. It made 866 A.D much more relate-able. Yes it was a long time ago, but this girl also has her struggles, her little quirks, just like children today.
It was disappointing that the mother was once again not present. Next time in Book Club we really must read a book that has a mother who isn’t either very ill or dead! In She Wolf, Ylva’s mother dying obviously drove the story. I’m not sure how it would have worked otherwise but I always groan when poor old mum is cast aside.
Smith really does put Ylva (you) through it emotionally. The violence is very occasional but there is a lot of heartbreak and the very young reader may be upset by the content despite the hopeful ending.
5 out of 5 Wolves
I enjoyed the book, but not as much as the children did, they loved it which is what counts. We need to say a big thank you to The Reading Agency who provided us with ten copies of the book in exchange for an honest review. We awarded it 5 out of 5 wolves (well why award stars when you have WOLVES!)
I really do recommend it as an excellent side to the Vikings topic. I think one of the group summed She Wolf up the best so I will leave it to her. “It’s so good, it made me stop reading all my other books” nuff said.