Friends of the Wolf

Friends of the Wolf


 Robert Young


Questions and activities by Robert Young


Nonfiction (I call it Faction) books are based on curiosity. Several years ago, I visited a small wolf sanctuary in Oregon. An older couple ran the sanctuary and the animals they kept there were wolves and wolf hybrids that people had mistreated or failed to raise as pets. Being that close to wolves and hearing about the suffering those animals had undergone was an intense and emotional experience. I decided to write about the sanctuary and, since they were in financial trouble, try to help raise money for them to keep the place running. Sadly, before I could even finish writing the book, the sanctuary closed, and ended my book project.

But this was just the beginning for a new project about wolves. Visiting that sanctuary had piqued my interest and unleashed my curiosity about these interesting animals. I wanted to know more, so I continued my research by reading articles and books, visiting other sanctuaries, and interviewing experts. I travelled to California, Washington, Idaho, and New Jersey to do my work.

As I learned more about wolves, I got a better understanding of how important wolves are to our world. I also became more aware of the challenges faced by wolves trying to survive. There are many wolf books written for kids, and these books provide basic information about these animals. I wanted my book to go farther, to be a call to action to help these animals survive, and to showcase one of the sanctuaries that is doing this. The result: Friends of the Wolf.


Before Reading:

Before introducing the book, play First Thoughts. I’m going to name an animal and you’re going to write down the first thought that comes to your mind. Say cat, then wait for a response. Follow with whale, cow, and wolf. Invite students to share their responses to wolf. Record their responses on the board in one of three columns: Positive (e.g. brave, loving), Neutral (e.g. fur, tail), and Negative (e.g. bite, dangerous). What is the range of responses? Which of the three columns has the most responses? This will provide valuable insight into the minds of students before reading the book.

Practice Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). Show the front cover of the book then ask:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?
  • What do you notice about the words?

Listen carefully to the comments, point to the features mentioned in the comments, paraphrase, and link related points. Repeat this technique using the back cover.

Ask students what they know (or think they know) about wolves. Make a list of the responses. Don’t correct misinformation at this point. Make another list of questions students have about wolves.   


During Reading:

Encourage students to do what effective readers do while reading: make predictions, make connections to their own lives, ask questions, and answer those questions.

Invite students to make a list of interesting facts they discover as they read.

Discussion Questions (for read-aloud, partner reading, or independent reading)

Pg. 2, paragraph 2 —What words does the author use to describe the wolves hunting? How does the description make you feel?

Pg. 2, sidebar—Why do you think wolves have more teeth than humans?

Pg. 5, paragraph 1—How many ungulates can you list?

Pg. 5, paragraph 2—Why do you think the word “friends” is in italics?

Pg. 5, sidebar— Estimate how far you live from school. How long would it take a wolf to travel from school to your home?

Pg. 6—List three special qualities of wolves.

Pg. 6, sidebar—Why do you think some people believe that wolves howl at the moon?

Pg. 8, caption—What does “subordinate” mean?

Pg. 9, illustrations—Describe a time when you were harmed by one of these creatures.

Pgs. 10, 11—Tell why wolves are important to our world.

Pg. 13, paragraph 1—Why did Native American tribes live in harmony with wolves?

Pg. 13, paragraph 2, sidebar—What were the European settlers’ attitudes toward wolves?

Pg. 14, caption—Why do you think wolves were not eliminated in Alaska like they were in the lower 48 states?

Pg. 15, paragraph 3—What brought about the Endangered Species Act?

Pg. 16, caption——What types of wolves are still protected?

Pg. 17, caption—Which do you think is better, a hard or soft release. Why?

Pg. 19, sidebar—How long has the California Wolf Center been helping wolves?

Pg. 20, paragraph 2, sidebar—Why don’t visitors at the CWC get to see all the wolves?

Pg. 23, paragraph 1—Why aren’t the “release” wolves fed beef and chickens?

Pg. 23, paragraph 3, sidebar—Wolves love ice pops made with clams. What kind of an ice pop would you like?

Pg. 24—If you worked at the CWC, what job would you most like to do? Why?

Pg. 25, caption—What is a range rider?

Page 27, paragraph 2—Sanctuary workers don’t typically use tranquilizers on wolves so they can get veterinary care. Why do you think forming a line and walking toward the wolf works?

Pg. 27, sidebar—Why do you think states are reluctant to have more wolves released there?

Pgs. 28, 29—Make a list of the three most important facts on these pages.


After Reading:

Revisit the statements made and questions asked before reading. Clarify misinformation and answer questions. Which ones can be answered now? Discuss how you might find answers to the others.

Invite students to become a “friend” by doing any or all the activities on page 30.

Explore the websites listed on page 31 (some have live cams). Determine which sanctuary is closest to where you live. How many miles away is it?

Discuss the photographs in the book. How do you think the photographs were selected? Which do you like the most? Why? Select a few and use the VTS questions (in Before Reading section) to explore them.

Invite students to participate in Freeze A Moment. Working in groups of three or four, students select an important detail from the book, then portray it as a “Frozen Moment” to the entire class. Some guidelines: All group members must be involved (can be a rock or a tree), groups members must strike a pose and remain still, no words or sounds. When each group shows their “Moment,” the rest of the class guesses what it is. The purpose is to create a “Moment” that others will recognize.

Using facts learned, have students create Faction or Fiction flip books. (To make a flip book, give each student three pieces of unlined paper. Place the first sheet down vertically and put the next sheet on it one inch below the top. Put the third sheet on top of the second one inch below its top. The pages will look like stairs.

Hold onto all three pages and fold up from the bottom until the bottom edge is one inch below the edge of the top page. Crease the fold, then staple. You have a folded book with six tabs.

Turn the book around so the staples are at the top. Write the name of the topic as well as the title: “Fiction or Faction?” on the bottom tab. Write statements about the topic on the other five tabs, making sure that some of the statements are not true.

Lift the tab above each statement create an illustration and write the answer (“Fiction” or “Faction”) in the space. If the statement is not a fact, include a correct fact statement. When folded books are completed, share them with others.

Share the flip books with students in other classes.

Create math story problems using the numbers in the book.

Illustrate interesting facts and/or main points.

Write a book review.

Write a letter or e-mail to the author. Send to Real Writing Press, 172 Wetleau Drive, Lowell, OR 97452 or

Create a Readers’ Theatre script for the book (or a portion of the book).

Why do you think the author chose to use sidebars in this book? (To include interesting information without interrupting the flow of the narrative).

In this book, the author makes a case for helping wolves. Explore with students how he did this. Why did the author begin the book describing wolves in a negative manner? What reasons did the author give for being a “friend” to wolves? Did he make his case? Invite students to make a case (argument writing) for something they feel strongly about. Make sure they include the opposite side of the argument. Students can share their “cases” with the world by adding their writing to the author’s blog post about “Make a Case” writing (see ).

Brainstorm a list of topics about which the students are curious. Use that curiosity as a basis for researching, writing, and sharing.