Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Wolf At the Gate by Mark Van Steenwyk

When I received my copy of Wold at the Gate in the mail and I cracked open the cover, I instantly became a child again.  Stickers!  I love stickers!  What a cool surprise!  I wasn't sure where I'd put the stickers, but the joy I felt in seeing them was a definite plus.

As I began the thin volume, I was a little disappointed.  It read like an academic writing a children's book: well plotted, but without any levity, charm or prosaic interludes.  It is not aiming to be a classic in children's literature, but a moralistic allegory.

But what a clever allegory it is. While on the surface it is a retelling of the legend of St. Francis and the wolf, it goes far beyond that into the motivations of evil and criminals, and how one can transform them through love and acceptance.  While I found a couple of the turns a bit too quick, I think the bravery of both Francis and the wolf and their unique approach to evil is excellent and full of hope.

All my children are grown (thank God), but I wish that at least one were small that I could read this book to them and to get their opinion.  So I challenge you: get a copy of this book, spend a few evenings reading it to your elementary-school-age child and then discuss it with them:

When someone is attacking us, how should we respond to them?
How did Francis respond to the wolf?
Do you think that's a good way to deal with bad people?

Then let me know if your child was engaged enough to respond to the story.  I'm curious. 

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