Q & A with Polly Carlson-Voiles: SMMER OF THE WOLVES

imagesLet’s welcome Polly Carlson-Voiles to Dog Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who have written a book for kids with a key canine character. Polly Carlson-Voiles will share the story behind her novel, Summer of the Wolves which is realistic fiction for kids aged 10-14 and published by Houghton Mifflin.

AOB: Who is your key dog character and what kind of dog is he/she? Tell us a little more about him/her. 

My key canine character is a black wolf pup named Khan. His mother has been shot by a man stealing wild pups to sell illegally. Nika helps raise him and socialize him from 11 days old until the time comes to make a decision about his future.  As a young pup, Khan is emotional and attached to Nika as a member of his human pack. There is a secondary wolf storyline about Luna, a  captive adult female wolf who has escaped in a storm. Nika and her friend Thomas discover Luna hiding on an island. Part of the resolution of this story is the possibility these two wolves offer each other.


AOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

* Nika, age 12 1/2, has come with her brother to northern Minnesota from California, having lost her family. With her uncle, a wildlife biologist studying wolves, she finds Khan, an 11 day old wolf Pup. Nika opens her bruised heart to this pup. Can she open her heart to accept the love of a new family? Can she accept that Khan might need a pack of his own?


hp_wolflogsStarred reviews or blurbs you wish to share:


Author: Carlson-Voiles, Polly

KIRKUS Review Issue Date: March 1, 2012

Can the wildness of wolves transform the heart of a girl who has suffered too many losses? Twelve-year-old Nika and her younger brother Randall,recently orphaned, live in California, finally content with their-best-foster-mother-yet, Meg. When Meg’s health deteriorates, however, a well-meaning social worker locates their long-lost uncle Ian—a globe-trotting wildlife biologist now studying wolves in rural Minnesota—ostensibly fora “visit.” How will Nika incorporate yet another change of venue into her life? For starters, Nika nurtures a motherless wolf pup, fiercely advocates for caged wild animals and makes friends with a like-minded boy named Thomas.But when faced with stark moments of truth, both wild and domestic, will she make the right choices? Through close third-person narration, debut novelist Carlson-Voiles renders Nika’s emotional turmoil and moral dilemmas with gentle, compassionate strokes. Even the least wilderness-savvy readers will be drawn into the breathtaking landscapes, the human-to-animal relationships and the gradual evolution of Nika’s new family. While evoking the girl-wolf-hunter triad of Jean Craighead George’s 1973 Newbery Award–winning classic, Julie of the Wolves, the author brings enough of her own experiences with animals and troubled young people into the story that it feels like nonfiction.

A little gem of a book for all wild-hearted lovers of the natural world. (Fiction. 10-14)

“This book is a great read and will appeal to both boys and girls. Readers will learn much about wolves and wildlife conservation in a non-preachy manner. This is one of those books you won’t be able to put down.” ~ LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION

“The story is about wild wolves, and the information in it is fascinating. But the story is much more. It’s a story about relationships. Relationships between people, relationships between animals, and relationships between animals and people.”  ~ Examiner.com  Review Sept. 2012

“Nika’s losses and anxieties—the deeply felt instability of her life, her lack of control over her own future, her feelings of having no true place in the world—neatly parallel the wolves’ situation, but Carson-Voiles never pushes the simile too hard, letting both stories unfold naturally in tandem. The wealth of information about wolf development and the rescue and care of wild creatures will appeal to budding naturalists, while the vivid, kid-accessible descriptions (“Nika hated people talking about what had happened to her family. It made her feel like a run-over animal lying in the street, everyone standing over her, looking down and discussing the nature of her injuries”) pack a strong emotional punch. Nika’s tenuous bonds to the wolves and to Ian are compassionately drawn, and readers will be aching for Nika to find her place to call home”

Bulletin for the enter of Children’s Books, July/August 2012

Summer of the Wolves is filled with everything a reader would want. It is a great story, with awesome characters and a concept and words that bring the story to life. It is a book that deserves five out of five stars. Summer of the Wolves gives information about wolves, but not enough to bore someone like a non-fiction book might. Carlson-Voiles wrote an interesting book for kids in middle school. It tells a life story of foster kids and the story of a pup and how it lives its life. I don’t very often read books, but I’m glad I read this book. It kept me going on my vacation whenever I was bored, and it gave me something to do that was very fun. Summer of the Wolves is one of my favorite books, and I will read it when I have nothing to read. I could never set this book down and would read five chapters at a time. It’ll keep you reading and you will never find a boring part in the story.

Review written by Logan (6th grade student) www.booktrends.org


pastedGraphicAOB: What inspired you to write this story?

I began to research wolves when we had a part-wolf dog that had to be put to sleep. I collected data as a volunteer in a study of captive wolves and fell in love watching the social interaction of a wolf pack. I combined this interest with my love for northern wilderness, begun when I was a child on an island exactly like the one in the story, and with my experience with “lost and found” children in my work as a special educator.


AOB: What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

It took a long time! I wrote summers when I was teaching and only finished the book after I retired. Capturing the issues I wanted to share within a sturdy plot was the most difficult writing task. I finally charted the whole story out moving 3×5 cards around on butcher paper where I could see it visually.


AOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones?

I have written and submitted a prehistory series of chapter books for ages 7-10. Every one of these stories has an important dog! Song is the name of my “first dog” character, and Flint is her pup who is in the 2nd book of the series.


AOB: What are these stories about?

The first book is about how dog came from wolf many thousands of years ago and a girl who helped this happen. The 2nd is about cave painting and shows dog as rescuer and companion.(Flint is in this one.) The 3rd is about early music, and yes, an important ancient dog with a new role, guide dog!


AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?

I am working on a sequel of Summer of the Wolves that will still have captive and wild wolves, but will introduce a new rescue dog as well as new human characters. In this book my character Nika learns to navigate peer relationships, scape-goating, and the divisiveness that occurs when people judge too quickly.


AOB: What else would you like us to know about you or your story? 

  • The wild wolf on the cover lives on my road.
  • Twice I was a wolf-pup nanny for the International Wolf Center in Ely. Five of their wolves once napped in my lap or ate from my hand.
  • I also volunteered as a data collector for a scientific study of captive wolves during their mating season.
  • I also like to write non-fiction for kids, poetry for myself, to do art, and to write picture book stories. I wrote and illustrated a non-fiction picture book SOMEONE WALKS BY; The Wonders of Winter Wildlife, published in 2008, about animals in winter and some of the amazing facts about their adaptations for survival.
  • I also love to garden, canoe, walk with my husband and dogs, listen to music and read, read, read.
  • My biggest thrill as a writer is to see my books in libraries and schools.


AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

As a child I loved any book with animals in it! The classics like The Jungle books, Wind in The Willows, Old Yeller, Sounder, Where the Red Fern Grows, and a very old one called A Dog of Flanders.. To choose one book is too hard!!!


polly carlson-voilesAOB: Where can readers go to find out more information about you and/or your books?

My website is still in process. I hope to have more information there before long. I do post on Facebook, an author page, a book page for Summer of the Wolves, and one for SOMEONE WALKS BY; the Wonders of Winter Wildlife.


Thank you so much for joining us at Dog Reads, Polly Carlson-Voiles! So glad to see you volunteer at the International Wolf Center in Ely. A portion of the proceeds for my novel, Lara’s Gift will go to this organization for their conservation work. They were very helpful to me in my research on wolves.


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