In the news flood of politics, violence, and human rights struggles filling our days and minds, what could we possibly have to learn from one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts, Ernest Thomas Seton? Quite a lot, including lessons on compassion and caring for each other and our wild world, and the beautiful necessity of learning from our mistakes.
The Bologna Ragazzi Award, one of the most prestigious children’s international book awards, has just thrown its weight behind a quintessentially American book that tells the story of Ernest Thomas Seton’s life- changing meetings with a certain wolf. The Wolves of Currumpaw, a modern illustrated retelling of Seton’s classic story “Lobo, The King of Currumpaw,” is by the young artist/writer William Grill and was announced as the winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award for nonfiction on February 16, with the awards ceremony to follow during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair from April 3-6. The Wolves offers a story of young Seton exploiting the wilderness of the American West for his own gain, until a certain wolf tragically teaches Seton that the wildness has heart, and part of Seton’s job is to protect it.
This beautiful picture book is not Grill’s first headline-maker: his 2014 title Shackleton’s Journey was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and also made Grill the youngest winner since 1960 of the UK’s Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration (the equivalent to the Caldecott Medal in the US).
The Wolves of Currumpaw has garnered its own following, including a Junior Library Guild selection, a Guardian Best Children‘s Book 2016 selection, and rave reviews in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Book Review, and Brain Pickings, where Maria Popova said of the book, ” Grill tells the story without a sentimental gloss over the jarring cruelty that was a matter of course in the Old West. But what emerges is an essential reminder that we can’t reasonably judge one era by the moral standards of another; that, above all, so many of our ethical principles have emerged from the disquietude of their opposite—a sentiment echoed in the contrast between Grill’s soft, sensitive illustrations and the brutality of the killings, both by the wolves and of the wolves.”
There you have it, folks: a lesson from Ernest Thomas Seaton that, the Bologna Ragazzi committee agrees, more than stands the test of time.