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Wolf on the Fold

Wolf on the Fold

by Judith Clarke, Handprint

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Kenny is fourteen. His dad has just died, and to keep the family together, Kenny must find work. "Be careful going through the flatlands," his mother warns him. "Don't stop for anyone." But Kenny does stop, and what happens next will define the man he becomes. This collection of six stories set in Australia spans seventy years. Defining moments in each character's


Kenny is fourteen. His dad has just died, and to keep the family together, Kenny must find work. "Be careful going through the flatlands," his mother warns him. "Don't stop for anyone." But Kenny does stop, and what happens next will define the man he becomes. This collection of six stories set in Australia spans seventy years. Defining moments in each character's story exhibit the human will to press on even during vulnerable times. With supple, evocative prose and compelling characters, Wolf on the Fold examines those critical moments of collision between adolescence and the adult world. Judith Clarke captures the essence of people's lives, whatever their time in history or their social background.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In six concisely wrought chapters, Clarke (Night Train) spans four generations of an Australian family, elegantly encapsulating the emotions of children and youths as they are initiated into the adult world. The book opens in 1935, when 14-year-old Kenny Sinclair, his father newly buried, dejectedly sets off to find his first job. Accosted by a menacing stranger, Kenny unexpectedly recalls a poem he'd had to memorize for school: "The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold" and repeating the lines helps him maintain his calm and so save his own life. These words come to symbolize threatening situations later faced with equal resiliency by Kenny's children and grandchildren as they try to appease the disquieted spirit of an elderly aunt with memory loss, struggle to survive in a war zone, or attempt to block out angry words exchanged by parents. An especially memorable chapter, set in 1975, allows Kenny only a cameo role, as the neighbor of a refugee family scarred by their flight from war-torn Uganda. Tender, often wrenching narrative subtly guides readers to the essence of each character introduced, inviting them to share the terror, joys and epiphanies of each rite of passage. Clarke's quiet wisdom and keen understanding will touch hearts and stimulate the imagination. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Clarke is an acclaimed author of children's books in Australia and this book consists of loosely woven stories in a style not common in YA publications in the United States. In this, each story takes place in a different era, but links members of one family across the years. The first story takes place in 1935, during the Depression in Australia, when Kenny's family is shaken to its core by the death of their father. Kenny, at 14, has to go to work to support the family to help them stay together. There are passages in italics in this story telling of Kenny in his adult life, with references to his children and grandchildren; these are the principal characters in the subsequent stories, which take place in the 1950s, in 1975, in 1991, in 2002. Each story is about a test of strength, in some way, revealing this strong glue that unites this family, perhaps passed down through the generations. American readers will be challenged by the Australian references as well as by the unusual format. Once they persist through several of the stories, however, they will be intrigued by Clarke's style and anxious to get the puzzle pieces to fit together by the end of the book. In some ways, Clarke's style is old-fashioned, reminiscent of, say, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, about another poor family struggling to survive and to be good people. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Front Street, 169p.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-In this novel, six loosely connected short stories that may be read independently follow four Australian generations through their few ups and many downs. The first story takes place during the Great Depression, when 14-year-old Kenny's father has died and the teen drops out of school to support his family. The fifth is set in 1991, in war-stressed Israel. These events give the collection an overall historical perspective. Kenny's two daughters, who are introduced at their dying father's bedside, thread in and out of the stories. Readers meet them again as teens, and then follow them into their separate middle-aged lives. The final selection is a reflection on the present; Kenny's great-grandson is trying to fend off the emotional fallout from his parents' shouting sprees. From Kenny's hard-luck times of surviving the Depression, to his great-grandson's plugging his ears against the reality of a contemporary "happy home," this family's cycle tracks a jagged path of irony. All of these stories carry strong themes of youth facing the misfortunes of adult reality- poverty, death, emigration, divorce, senility, psychosis, war, peer cruelty. Clarke's writing is strong and competent; her subject matter is haunting and evocative, but the book is missing an overall teen voice/perspective/narrative and is not likely to appeal to a YA audience. It's a sad family recollection, tuned toward an adult ear.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold / And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold," begins the Lord Byron poem whose opening lines serve as a central metaphor in this short-story collection. The six related stories, which focus on or mention the same family through four generations, are about adolescents and children who deal with harsh realities-the wolves swooping down on the innocent. The different protagonists struggle with poverty, war, and death, and more mundane issues like aging relatives and parents' failing marriage. In one case, a girl named Frances "is afraid of anything," as if a bad fairy had christened her with "the invisible gift of a sinking heart." Yet moments of grace, kindness, and courage sustain the protagonists. In the winter of 1935, 14-year-old Kenny Sinclair survives an encounter with a crazed stranger by silently repeating the Byron poem's first stanza. In 1957, an elderly relative whose mind is slipping teaches Frances a prayer, "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us," to get the girl through her anxious nights. The emotionally intense stories explore themes about family, friendship, and intolerance through well-crafted vignettes and convincing dialogue. Clarke, author of the haunting novel Night Train (2000), as well as the hilarious Al Capsella series, won the Australian Children's Book of the Year Award for this quiet, heartrending collection. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Judith Clarke is the author of a dozen novels for young adults. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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