The Boy, the Wolf and the Stars by Shivaun Plozza

A review by Nalini Haynes

Bo is the titular Boy of the Boy, the Wolf and the Stars. He lives in the forest with his austere guardian. While he’s supposed to be doing chores, instead he’s watching the village children play. Although a child, he’s never been accepted by the villagers, he’s a complete outsider. By failing to complete a chore, he releases evil magic that will destroy the world.

The wolf is mythic: at first we’re not sure if he’s real or a legend. Stars were magical beings so a wolf ate the stars to steal the world’s magic. Bo must find the wolf to free the stars to save the world from the ravening dark.

Background

Plozza is a YA (young adult) author. I love and adore her debut novel Frankie (my review is here) but I didn’t receive her second novel, Tin Heart, for review.

The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars marks a change for Plozza: this is an upper primary to middle grade novel with a younger protagonist who, like the children in the iconic Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, shed adults to go on life-changing adventures.

Debut or not debut?

As a middle grade novel and as a fantasy, this novel marks two firsts for Plozza. Her ability to spin an engaging yarn with relatable characters who ensnare readers is indisputable. As a middle grade novel, The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars is excellent. However, older readers may not find this story as immersive as Plozza’s YA.

There are some glitches in this novel that are the equivalent of Harry Potter’s magical system: at a closer look, it doesn’t quite work. Plozza, like Rowling, uses sleight-of-hand to focus readers elsewhere. As Naomi Novik says, this is a legitimate storytelling technique.

Middle Grade audiences

When I was in primary school I would have loved and adored The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars (we didn’t have middle school back then). The librarian would have had to chase me down to return this book only to sigh as I checked it out from the library again. My kids loved stories like this too.

The verdict

Bo begins his journey alone and ignorant, gradually acquiring friends while building a backstory. Grief, love, loss, finding new love (the familial kind not romance), loyalty, tolerance and acceptance are strong threads within this novel. Young readers will, by turns, be scared and hopeful, lost and restored. Bo is a role model for perseverance, grieving and rebuilding lives. I highly recommend The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars for children and parents to read to children.

Shivaun Plozza appeared as a guest on a DMZ podcast a few years ago. It’s available here and on all good podcasting platforms including but not limited to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Cast, Stitcher, Amazon Podcasts, and the list goes on. I literally can’t remember all the podcast platforms DMZ is on but I think there’s at least a dozen!

Book details

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760893453
Imprint: Puffin (Penguin Random House)
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Released: 20 October 2020
Category: fiction, fantasy, children

The Boy, the wolf and the stars: a wolf eats a star over a boy running past a tree