From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs Book Poster Image
Informative story imagines early bond between wolf and boy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Chock-full of easily digested information about wolves, dogs, evolution, the hunting life of early humans, human evolution into herders and farmers, various jobs of dogs, and different breeds.

Positive Messages

Humans and animals can help each other. Teamwork is valuable. When a tribe worked together and shared food, all benefited. Includes an appeal to readers to help present-day wolves survive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The orphaned pup at first tries to survive by helping the pack. He then sees his opportunity to get food by trusting a human. Because the wolf trusts the boy and the boy befriends the wolf, they're able to help each other. Dogs are shown throughout history helping humans in various ways. Tribes of early humans are shown working together for the good of all.

Violence & Scariness

Graphic illustration of an auroch impaled through the mouth and rear on a cooking spit. Picture of wolf pack chasing a tribe of humans and dogs and of one human tribe chasing another tribe with spears.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott (illustrator of Newbery Honor book Show Way) is a fictional imagining of how wolves and humans first bonded and wolves developed into dogs. An orphaned wolf pup and orphan boy become friends, each helping the other secure food and, therefore, survival. Though the book opens with a fictional story, it's packed with detail about early humans and their hunting lives. Talbott takes the story further into human history as humans, with the help of dogs, develop into herder-farmers and on to the present day. There's some graphic art showing a large auroch impaled on a roasting spit and pictures of humans being chased by wolves and other humans with spears. The story format provides an easy way for young readers to think about complicated issues of evolution and development.

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What's the story?

FROM WOLF TO WOOF!: THE STORY OF DOGS combines fiction and fact to tell the story of an orphaned wolf pup "long ago" who survives by befriending a young human. In this mutually beneficial friendship, the boy helps the wolf by tossing him bones, and the wolf helps the boy hunt. The story imagines that other stray wolves and children then joined up, banding together to form a tribe that thrived because wolves and humans acted as a team: "Everyone worked together and shared food. No one was left out." It then explains how humans evolved from hunter-gatherers into herder-farmers and how dogs evolved into new roles, as well. It ends with mention of breeds and an appeal to save the wolves, now at risk in the wild.

Is it any good?

This book seamlessly meshes fiction and fact in a story about an orphaned wolf pup befriending an early human boy, paving the way for wolves to develop into dogs, known as man's best friend. This rich prehistorical material has been mined similarly in a picture book by notable author-illustrator Jan Brett, titled The First Dog. Talbott's story doesn't end at that early encounter. It travels down the time line to touch on humans developing into herder-farmers, as well as the many jobs dogs did and the development of breeds. Since archeologists are still unearthing fossil evidence and reinterpreting the wolf's path to domestication. Talbott calls his story an "origin myth." He also suggests that dogs influenced human development just as we influenced theirs, that we became herder-farmers "with the help of the wolves," who guarded our herds.

The wolf pup and boy are cute and completely relatable, inviting kids into the more meaty historical material about our early ancestors and making this book a great introduction to both early human history and the evolution of wolves into dogs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dogs. How are they different now from wolves? How is their behavior still like wolf behavior?

  • What jobs do dogs do for humans? How many can you think of? Why are dogs good at those jobs?

  • If dogs evolved from wolves, why are there now so many breeds? How do you think the various breeds evolved? Which ones look most like wolves?

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