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Annotation: Runt, the smallest wolf cub in the litter, seeks to prove himself to his father King and the rest of the pack and to earn a new name.
Catalog Number: #5525639
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition Date: 2002
Pages: 144
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-440-41978-6
ISBN 13: 978-0-440-41978-5
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
Runt is the name given to the smallest and last-born pup in the litter by King, his father. Although treated kindly by his family and the rest of the pack, Runt constantly feels the need to prove himself. His sisters and brothers are each named for a particular skill or attribute, like Hunter, Helper, and Sniffer. Runt doesn't seem able to measure up and worries that he will always be an outsider, tolerated but not needed. He experiences uncertainty and pain and loss as the pack strives for survival. Although it does not seem to be Bauer's intention, these very human emotions are the most successful element of the work. The plot is overly contrived, setting up a neat lesson about the habits and needs of wolves, including hunting practices and dangers, fighting for the position of pack leader, and relationships to humans and other creatures. In an afterword, the author provides much additional information about wolves and their habits and strongly indicates that her sole purpose in creating Runt's story is to enhance readers' empathy for these endangered creatures. She also includes a bibliography that will lead readers to accurate information about wolves as well as fictional works that succeed far better than this one. (Fiction. 8-10)
Publishers Weekly

Fans of Jean Craighead George's Julie of the Wolves and its successors will welcome Bauer's (On My Honor) tightly plotted, swiftly paced tale of a wolf pack. Runt, the diminutive last-born of a litter of pups, hopes to prove his worth to his father, King, and acquire a nobler name, like those of his littermates, Leader, Sniffer, Runner and Thinker. But his attempts backfire: he gets lost after following King and the others when they hunt for food, and loses his way again when he decides to brave a fierce storm outdoors rather than take refuge with his siblings in the pack's cave. His efforts to capture a porcupine have especially dire consequences: kind humans remove the painful quills from Runt's muzzle, after which most of the pack avoids him ("You've been with themagain," an older brother rebukes him). Adding further dimension to the novel are such ancillary characters as a raven who advises Runt, a kind older sibling and the deposed former leader of the pack, Bider, who is also King's nemesis. As Bauer notes in an afterword, her view of wolves is based on scientists' observations (except for their ability to communicate in English). While some may wince at the descriptions of the wolves' hunting expeditions, the author encourages an informed sympathy not only for her underhero but, more generally, for wolves in the wild. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Runt is the smallest in a litter of wolves born in the forests of northern Minnesota. The pups join their father, mother, and two yearlings in a pack that is completed by Bider, an adult male accepted into the group after he was forced out of another one. Each littermate seems to have a destined role, but for Runt the future is an unknown. He tries mightily to keep up with his siblings, but much of the time he tries too hard, doesn't think ahead, or makes mistakes. An encounter with a porcupine lands him among humans and proves fatal to one of his brothers. Sensing the pack's disappointment, Runt withdraws, looking for a chance to earn his father's approval. Throughout, Bider is watching, waiting for his chance to cause discord and disruption in the pack. When this occurs, it also provides an opportunity for Runt to rejoin his family. Beautifully written and faithful to wolves' behavior (explained in an afterword), this book will be a good companion to Jean Craighead George's "Julie of the Wolves" series (HarperCollins). Bauer portrays the wolves' place in the natural world with compassion, respect, and warmth, but this is also the story of any unique individual's struggle to find his or her niche.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Born with his father's black fur and white marking, Runt is the fifth and last wolf pup in the family. He's also the smallest, and his size dictates his standing in the pack. Though he is always last, he's both curious about his world and determined to prove himself to King, his father. Unfortunately, his efforts earn him only disapproval, which culminates when, with the help of dreaded humans, he survives an encounter with a porcupine that ultimately kills his brother. Not until Bider, a white male, challenges King for leadership of the pack is Runt able to prove his worth. Runt's determination rescues the pack and earns him a new name, Singer. With an economy of words, Bauer precisely and vividly conveys the wolves' wild world--their surroundings as well as their hierarchical relationships, behavior, and culture. She also provides more about wolves in an appended discussion that tackles assumptions about wolves and expresses hope that the story will increase empathy for the complex, fascinating creatures. Her passion for the animals is evident throughout this compelling, poignant story. There's a ready-made audience for this, Bauer's first novel about animals. A bibliography of books for adults and for young people is appended.
Word Count: 21,280
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 3.0 / quiz: 62567 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.3 / points:7.0 / quiz:Q31870
Lexile: 690L

Spring comes late to the forests of northern Minnesota. Geese soar in from the south, only to stand flat-footed on frozen lakes, complaining loudly to one another. Bears, groggy and cross, emerge to a world still cloaked in snow. Deer search in vain for tender shoots. Yet the wolf pups pushing their way into the world found their den warm and dry and welcoming.

Their silver mother greeted them, one by one, drying wet fur with her tongue and massaging breath into each tiny body. And though their eyes were sealed, their ears folded tightly against their heads, she could guess already what place each would take in the pack.

"Leader" she named the first brown pup, a vigorous male. The second, a female, she called "Sniffer." And she gave Sniffer's twitching nose an extra lick. Another female arrived, with spindly legs already in motion. "Runner," Silver said. "You will be swift and sure-footed, and the pack will need you." Then she drew the pup toward her nurturing body. The fourth emerged with his brow furrowed. "Thinker," his mother said fondly, licking his forehead smooth. "You will always be watching and planning, won't you?"

The den, dug into a hill above a frozen lake, angled downward from the entrance for six feet, then made a ninety-degree turn and rose for another six feet to the birthing room. The pups' father, King, a large black wolf with a white star on his chest, had been lying at the turn of the narrow tunnel, listening, waiting. As each pup emerged, his tail wagged fiercely. When the fourth pup had settled at the mother's side, King backed rapidly toward the surface.

"Four pups," he told the others waiting there. "Four healthy pups. Each one of them big and strong!" Then he danced, leaping and whirling for the joy of the new life that had come to the pack.

Helper, a young tan male born to these same parents the year before, danced, too. His silver sister, Hunter, joined them. "How fine to have pups!" they sang. How fine, too, no longer to be the youngest, the least in the pack!

Bider, a mature male, pure white, came forward. "What good news, King," he said, lowering his body and reaching up to nudge his leader's chin.

A few moments later, however, when King and the two yearlings lifted their heads to sing the new pups' praise, Bider looked on in silence. Once he, too, had been king. He'd had his own pack, his own pups to sing for. But that was before he had been deposed and driven out to hunt alone in the darkest part of winter. Now he waited, biding his time . . . and another king's pups were not what he was waiting for. He turned from the celebration.

The howl finished, King crawled once more into the den to check on his new family. Leader, Sniffer, Runner, Thinker. What splendid pups!

This time, though, he stopped, puzzled, halfway between the entrance and the birthing room. What was that new smell? He strained to see in the deep dark of the den. The eyes of a wolf gather in even the faintest rays of light, so he could just make out the four brown furry bundles lined up along their mother's belly. They were nursing vigorously, intent on their first meal. King's tail went into motion at the very sight of them.

But Silver was busy with something more. A pup? Was she washing another pup? Yes. This one black like his father, black with a minute white star on his chest.

King's own chest swelled at the sight, and he inched forward eagerly. A look-alike son! What name would his mate choose for this son who wore his black fur and white star?

But Silver offered no name. She only went on licking.

King scooted forward further to check his son himself. He sniffed the new pup from nose to tail, tail to nose again, then drew back slowly.

Something was wrong. The black pup was small. Much too small. And he was not yet breathing.

"Runt!" The name exploded from King. "This one's a runt."

The world beyond the den was a good one, but it was hard. Only the strongest, the best, the most intelligent and competent survived in it. And sometimes not even they. Two of the pups in the last litter had died before they ever emerged from the den. Their mother had taken them, one at a time, off into the forest to bury them. Would she be doing the same again?

At last, under Silver's persistent tongue, the black pup took a breath. Then another. Air filled his tiny lungs, just as it did his brothers' and sisters', and his mother drew him gently toward her belly to begin to nurse.

Only then did Silver acknowledge her mate and the name that had sprung unbidden from his lips. "He may be Runt for now," she said, laying her chin across this latest arrival, "but who knows what gift he may bring to the pack?"

"Who knows?" King repeated softly, though wasn't the pup's mother supposed to know? She always had before. "Maybe," he added, "you have a better name."

Silver was silent for a long time. "No," she said at last, "I know no other. Not yet."

Which only confirmed King's fears. His son was marked for death.

The pups' father looked long and hard at his five offspring, especially at this last, the one whose black fur and white star filled him with such love. Then, tail wagging more slowly this time, he backed toward the surface to carry this further news to the pack.

Leader, Sniffer, Runner, Thinker. Four fine pups.

And Runt. Now there was Runt.

Excerpted from Runt by Marion Dane Bauer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

DEEP IN THE Minnesota forest, where only the strong survive, four regular-sized pups—Leader, Sniffer, Runner, and Thinker—are pushed into the world. Then one last, very small pup is born into the wolf pack. He is called Runt.

From the very start, Runt struggles in the harsh wild world of the wolves. He tries learning along with his brothers and sisters, but makes serious mistakes. It’s hard pleasing his father, King, and the other wolves. If only Runt could prove himself to his powerful father and family. . . .

“With an economy of words, Bauer precisely and vividly conveys the wolves’ wild world. . . . There’s a ready-made audience for this.”—Booklist, Starred

“Beautifully written and faithful to wolves’ behavior (explained in an afterword). . . . Bauer portrays the wolves’ place in the natural world with compassion, respect, and warmth, but this is also the story of any unique individual’s struggle to find his or her niche.”—School Library Journal

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