Responding to the literary howl of Jack London, author Dr. A. W. Sibley’s new novel is a crossbreed between White Fang and The Call of the Wild. When I first requested A Wolf Called Ring, I was under the impression that it was a children’s novel and had intended to read it with my son. To my delight, I got to steal it away because this was not the case. This novel is too thick to be for children and the period language would be lost on their electronic and data-infused minds. This is a tale for adults and young adults. Brighton Publishing LLC | 2014 | Paperback | 280 pp
The time is the early 1930s, the place – an old Louisiana homestead and farm. More than anything, Dub Sibley, the youngest member of the Sibley household, wants a pup. When his father’s hound vanishes for a few days after chasing a howling wolf, she comes back happy and pregnant. Instead of birthing a litter, she gives birth to one wolf-dog with a bright white ring around his collar. Of course, his name is Ring and he naturally belongs to Dub.
Being part wolf, Ring is much different from the other dogs on the farm. He isn’t very friendly, doesn’t like to play, and will only let Dub touch him. He grows fast and by the time he’s only a few months old, he’s the biggest dog on the farm. None of the other dogs, except for his mama, will mess with him. Ring is exceptionally smart and his instincts can’t be matched. Before long, he’s an able farm dog, able to coral animals and fetch the strays. As for hunting, he’s the best in the country. He can catch squirrel, raccoon, cottontails, and anything else that might be messing with the crops.
Ring is put to the test in a squirrel hunting competition which drew participants from all over the nation. Naturally, Dub and Ring won (for another gentlemen) hands down – it wasn’t even a competition. When a rich tycoon from Boston who had been in the competition offered to buy Ring, the family told him to bugger off. And when Ring went missing shortly thereafter, it didn’t take two seconds for Dub and his father to know what happened. Ring had been stolen.
Dub is heartbroken and after letting the town sheriff know, everyone in the area knows that his famous wolf-dog had been stolen. But Ring is not just any dog. He’s a champion, he’s smart, and he’s monstrous in size. It isn’t long before he breaks free from his captors and sets out on foot to find his way home. From here we see through Ring’s eyes while he rushes to be back home with Dub. Smart and cunning, he avoids traps, hunts for food, and largely stays away from people, unless he senses trouble.
At first Dub suffers from crying fits, nightmares, and pangs of loneliness while Ring is away. But eventually, he gets his own philly which he trains up to be just as remarkable as Ring. While is loneliness is deferred, he still longs for Ring. The wolf-dog also finds companionship on the road in the form of a she-wolf. And during his long travel, Dub begins to get word of a wolf-like dog with a ring around his collar who has been accredited for several good deeds: helping in the aftermath of a tornado, alerting townspeople to an overturned school bus, and finding missing children. Everyone knows that Ring is on his way home.
There is so much to love in this book. The period writing style that reflects not only the era in description, but also in verse. It was beautifully executed as if the author had just stepped off a 1930’s farm in the deep south. You could practically hear the drawl flowing from Dub’s lips.
The characters are rich and fully fleshed out. Although Dub is a small child, he’s a member of ol’ Americana, a hard-working farm boy who takes to lessons, is sufficiently self-reliant and dependable, and is courageous with his body and mind. Ring’s voice is a show of anthropomorphism and deftly shows the difference between himself, other dogs, and other wolves. Dub and Ring share a unique bond that keeps them together despite the distance. Dub continues to hear Ring’s howl which should be impossible, and Ring hears Dub’s whistle and follows it homeward. And when Ring meets the she-wolf, his wolf side overpowers the dog side, and we see a new Ring: the vicious killer.
A Wolf Called Ring is an instant classic with literary skill to match that of White Fang and The Call of the Wild. It should be in every school library and required reading for high school students. It is a slice of American history peppered with love, duty, and man’s best friendship. Highly, HIGHLY, recommended.