Runt

Runt

4.5 71
by Marion Dane Bauer
     
 

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In this beautifully written story set in the north woods of Minnesota, four healthy wolf pups—Leader, Sniffer, Runner, and Thinker—are born one spring. And then one final, undersized pup emerges—Runt. Despite his size, Runt manages to keep up with his brothers and sisters and learn the ways of the pack. But he finds it impossible to please his father

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Overview

In this beautifully written story set in the north woods of Minnesota, four healthy wolf pups—Leader, Sniffer, Runner, and Thinker—are born one spring. And then one final, undersized pup emerges—Runt. Despite his size, Runt manages to keep up with his brothers and sisters and learn the ways of the pack. But he finds it impossible to please his father, the pack’s leader, and gradually withdraws from the others. When he ventures into forbidden human territory, Runt at last comes to understand his mistakes and to recognize his own worth. Award-winning author Marion Dane Bauer combines her gift for evocative writing with her in-depth knowledge of wolves to create a compact tale that has the power of an epic. Like the best animal stories, it reflects our own world and shows us what it means to be alive. Afterword.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Runt, the diminutive last-born of a litter of pups, hopes to prove his worth to his father and acquire a nobler name in what PW called a "tightly plotted, swiftly paced tale of a wolf pack." Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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.
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)
From the Publisher

"Bauer precisely, vividly conveys the wolves’ wild world. Her passion for the animals is evident throughout this compelling, poignant story." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547511863
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/21/2002
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
271,773
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

1

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.

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