The Call of the Wild

Common Sense Media says

Classic animal tale of dignity and survival.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Provides historically accurate portrait of the Yukon gold rush of the late 1800s, including details on how dogsled teams work.

Positive messages

The main message here is that the wild, unfettered life is preferable to civilization for dogs -- and perhaps for humans too. Today's readers will find that this depicts "a man's (and dog's) world," and women are referred to rarely and with sexism.

Positive role models

Buck's final owner is rough but more decent and compassionate than any of the other humans in the story. Buck himself is often beaten, once almost to death. But ultimately, his dignity and spirit will grip kids and hold them.


The story is set in the wilderness, and it's a story of what it takes to survive. Men and dogs are beaten and killed, and attack and kill each other, quite brutally. Men beat dogs with clubs and whips, dogs fight to the death and tear out the throats of men and other dogs, a dog is torn apart by a pack.

Not applicable

"Hell" is used rarely.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Men smoke pipes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story has moved kids for years. Its fast-paced drama hooks even reluctant readers. That said, it also reflects the sensibilities of another age. This is a story of survival, which entails a great deal of brutality by and toward dogs. It may be a bit much for sensitive young animal lovers of today, when beating dogs with clubs is not considered an acceptable way of training them. Dogs fight each other to the death, and tear out the throats of dogs and men, yielding geysers of blood when the jugular is ripped open. Buck, the canine main character, is often beaten, once almost to death. But ultimately, this is a story of dignity and leadership that will grip kids and hold them.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Buck is a large dog living the good life on a comfortable California estate in the late 1800s when he is kidnapped and transported to the Yukon to be a sled dog during a gold rush there. At first he tries to rebel, but he is soon beaten into submission. As he passes through a succession of owners, he finds that ancient instincts from his wolf ancestors are awakening within him, enabling him to survive and prosper in the brutal wilderness of the North. It is a tale that is brutal at times but ultimately an uplifting story about inner dignity and what it takes to be a leader.

Is it any good?


THE CALL OF THE WILD is a great work of literature; there can be no doubt. Written in a style that is at once muscular and poetic, it is both an adventure story and a meditation on civilization versus savagery, with savagery clearly having more appeal to the author. As Buck gradually reverts to the instincts and behaviors of his wolf ancestors, he becomes both more alive and more truly himself. This, and its implications for human beings, gives young readers plenty to think and talk about, which explains why this book continues to be a favorite for discussion groups and classrooms.

There's a brutality here that not all children will find to their taste, and modern American children are more likely to want to discuss the way Buck is treated than the way he acts. The sensibilities that drove the author and his original audience have changed dramatically since the time this book was written, and animal rights and treatment are a hot topic with children these days. "The law of club and fang" is a long way from the experience of most modern young readers, who may not agree with author Jack London's view of the whole situation. This, of course, can also prompt interesting discussions, though they may be different from what the author was thinking of when he wrote it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how values and sensibilities have changed in the century since this was written. If this had been written about events happening today, would you react differently? Would the book have been received differently?

  • How has the treatment and perception of animals changed over time?

  • This book is considered a classic. Why do you think readers have cherished it for so long? Thinking about other classics that you've read or know about, can you think of what gives a book lasting appeal?

Book details

Author:Jack London
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc.
Publication date:January 1, 1903
Number of pages:208

This review of The Call of the Wild was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byjamae November 8, 2011

jamae's review

it has a moral lesson . that even though we are apart of our own family we still find a way to be with them again .
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 13 years old Written byteenager1997 November 3, 2010

Hate this book

I HATE this book i read it last year and really didi not like it. It is boring and predictible. I like books to have substance and a plot! Seriously people write better books!!!
Parent Written bywolf zifanwe September 16, 2012

Don't eat your dog('s) have fealing and sole.

The way the main character the dog was treated after being handed over to the man was real bad. I would not recommend any animal loving person to read this book. The `man' whom treated the dog as if his love and kindness could be changed into spite and loathing by a group treating him to some of the cruelest treatment imaginable "not good". The neurological damage the dog character suffers in unimaginable cruelty. Books as thus are little if any help.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Common Sense Kids Action