Alfonso and Leopold: An Alaskan Adventure concerns two wolves who rediscover the joy of home after heading out on a nighttime adventure.
Alfonso is a white wolf cub with a bold sense of adventure, while his brother Leopold is black and more cautious. When they wake up one night to find their mother and father away on a hunting expedition, Alfonso decides it’s time to have some fun. He proposes they “get a little fresh air” and “talk to the Great Wolf Spirit.” This Spirit, the narrator informs us, “lived in the sky. He came out to guide and offer advice to wolves everywhere.”
Leopold reluctantly agrees to follow Alfonso. Once out in the January snow, they can’t see the Spirit, so a search begins — one that results in frightening encounters with a mountain lion and a man with a gun. Finally, they find their way home, relieved to see their parents running toward them. The story ends with the family looking up in the sky, only to see the Great Wolf Spirit looking down on them.
Written by a former Alaska resident, this children’s story has many charming features. It is told in plain but evocative language (“The air was cold, quite cold, as it almost always was in the month of January in Alaska”). And the illustrations, framed with a pleasing snowy sky border, lend a sense of both the awe and frigidness of a starry winter night. A short glossary defines a few words young readers might not know, including cheechako, the Alaskan word for newcomer.
The main drawback is that some pages contain too much text for a children’s picture book. Fortunately, the illustrations on the opposite pages are bold enough to keep children engaged.
Overall, this is a well-constructed story about courageous cubs who face real dangers in the snowy wild. Happily, for the comfort of sleepy minds the story offers a pleasant, safe ending.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.