Wayward Creatures

Clarion. Jan. 2022. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358468288.
Gr 4-7–Gabe usually feels like an outcast at school, so when an old friend suggests they hang out, Gabe’s in good spirits. But his friend brings class show-off Taylor, who starts to grate on Gabe’s nerves. Gabe makes some bad decisions, including shoplifting fireworks and shooting them haphazardly outside, resulting in a forest fire. The fire quickly gets out of control and Gabe is caught and taken to the police station. He must face a community board and commit to restitution and community service. As Gabe’s story unfolds, readers learn more about a coyote named Rill who was severely burned during the fire and is hiding in a cave, gathering her strength to find her family. Meanwhile, Gabe and his family are finding it difficult to get along as he distances himself from those who love him. Gabe encounters the coyote during his community service and desperately wants to help, bringing her food and water. As he cares for Rill, Gabe starts to understand how much the land means to people, and attempts to restore the forest and his fractured family. Overall, this book has excellent messaging about navigating friendship challenges, dealing with hard consequences, and the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people. Gabe is cued as white.
VERDICT A solid addition to middle grade collections; best suited for animal lovers and students interested in realistic fiction.

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