The Great White Wolf is very, very old. And she is very, very tired. For hundreds of winters, she has searched for someone to take her place. But she is invisible to most people. In all those years, only three have seen her. One died young. One said no. One is still alive — a 12-year-old boy named Gauge.
Everyone in the village thinks Gauge is a witch. He’s been in hiding half his life, all because he once saw the Wolf — and right after that, the Lord Mayor’s wife died. Now his only protector, his beloved grandpapá, is dead, too. The Wolf visits the boy again, this time with an offer. She can save him the pain of growing up––if he'll take her job. Now that he’s all alone in the world, it may be the only way to escape the bounty on his head. Too bad his grandpapá’s last words were, “Stay away from the Wolf.”
Narrated by the sly, crafty Wolf, Vitalis’ debut is a gorgeous, voice-driven literary fantasy about family, fate, and long-held traditions. The Wolf’s Curse will engross readers of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and A Wish in the Dark.
About the Author
Jessica Vitalis is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer specializing in middle grade literature. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. Her debut novel, THE WOLF’S CURSE, will be published fall 2021 by Greenwillow/HarperCollins with a second book to follow.
Review by Erica George
In a superstitious coastal town, a young boy named Gauge lives quietly with his grandfather, a carpenter. But Gauge hasn’t led a life like other boys; he is a Voyant, meaning he can see the Wolf—a creature everyone in town believes brings death to their village, and because of his sight, they believe Gauge and the Wolf must be working together. Although his childhood hasn’t been spent outside playing with other children, Gauge has always been protected by his grandfather, a carpenter, and has loved growing up and learning his family’s business. Their world is small but complete. But when his grandfather dies, Gauge is lost without him, and now, after several more deaths, the entire village believes that Gauge has called the Wolf upon them. They’re soon on the hunt for the boy, searching for him everywhere, and Gauge doesn’t know where to turn until he meets Roux, the daughter of the village’s blacksmith and a feather collector. Roux is the only person who believes Gauge when he tells her that he can’t call the Wolf, and he means no harm to anyone. United in grief, they set out to clear Gauge’s name before it’s too late.
Told from the perspective of the crafty and mysterious (and frequently witty) Wolf, this middle grade novel is lyrical and moving. While it is a story of adventure, it is also a thoughtful story of growing up and realizing that not everything is as what it seems. Vitalis has constructed a haunting and beautiful fictional world that seeps into every page and often mirrors our own.
Each character truly jumps off the page, carefully crafted and unique. Gauge is the kind of middle grade hero we can cheer for, and the town’s inhabitants challenge him both externally, but also internally, as we watch his beliefs begin to unravel and then strengthen once again. Perhaps the most stunning element of this book is the Wolf. Without any spoilers, I was moved to tears so many times by this character’s story and the compassion that is shown to an animal that so rarely receives any. I cannot wait for more from Jessica Vitalis!
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Erica George is a writer of young adult fiction. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education, and is currently an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She resides in scenic Hunterdon County, New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air on Cape Cod.
Many themes in Erica’s writing rotate around environmental activism and helping young people find their voice. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side. Words Composed of Sea and Sky is her debut young adult novel.