Review of Bringing Back the Wolves, by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Kim Smith

Bringing Back the Wolves

How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem

by Jude Isabella
illustrated by Kim Smith

Kids Can Press, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written August 22, 2020, from a library book

Bringing Back the Wolves is not flashy, but it’s simply presented nonfiction in a picture book format – and I learned a whole lot.

This book explains that all the wolves in Yellowstone National Park were gone by 1926. The government had offered a bounty on wolves and other predators in its quest to tame the west. But what nobody at the time realized was that would affect the entire ecosystem.

The book talks about the food web and food chains. But it shows that wolves affected the ecosystem far beyond ways you’d expect. Especially effective for me were spreads at the beginning and end of the book showing a valley in Yellowstone’s northern range in 1995 just before wolves were reintroduced, contrasted with a picture of that same valley twenty-five years later.

In between those spreads, it’s clearly laid out how much the wolves affected. First, it was the large herds of elk, which in 1995 were five times larger than in 1968. Fewer elk affected which plants and trees could survive and thrive. That affected animals in the middle of the food chain as well as bringing more birds and raptors to Yellowstone. Then, especially affecting the landscape, beavers came back, building dams and reviving the ecosystem on their part. Songbirds returning mean that the park even sounds different than it did in 1995. I’d no idea how much is affected, down to the insects in the soil.

Here’s how the author finishes this book, on the spread with the picture of the revitalized valley:

Twenty-five years after their reintroduction, about 500 wolves roam the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, staking their claim in the food web. Wolves have helped to balance the ecosystem just by being themselves, apex predators. But perhaps even more important, studying the wolves has exposed just how complex and interconnected the ecosystem is, revealing surprising links no one could have imagined.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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