Call of the Wild by Jack London

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Call of the Wild by Jack London

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: For confident readers, teens and adults too, The Call Of The Wild is a timeless classic. It has a challenging, but appropriate vocabulary, great pace and high romance in bucketloads. Bookbag recommends it for reading aloud to children in early primary school years and for reading alone for confident late primary readers and teens and adults of all ages.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 1995
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 0140186514

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When he was stolen and sold by a family servant, Buck was a young dog, just four years old. He was in his prime, a huge dog, a German Shepherd - St Bernard cross. He'd become the lord of all he surveyed around Judge Miller's place - he was a lucky dog; born with the strength of one parent and the intelligence of the other. But Buck's civilised life was about to come to an end, for dogs like him were in demand. Gold had been found in Alaska and men were rushing to find their fortunes. Dogs like Buck were desperately needed to pull the sleds in that harsh, frozen country. And Judge Miller had a servant who had not enough money and too many children to feed. That is how Buck came to be stolen away from his pampered life and sold into the slavery of the sled dog.

Buck learns hard lessons but, thanks to his intelligence, he learns fast. He learns not only how cruel is the Alaskan territory, and how hard is the life of a sled dog but he also learns how cruel and hard man, and other dogs, can be. His first lesson is dealt by the man in the red sweater, the man with the club. His second is dealt by Spitz, the lead dog of the sled team who kills the first friend he has made. There is so much Buck has to learn: how to dig a 'nest' under the snow to keep from freezing at night; how to protect his food and survive on a starvation diet; how to fight; and, above all, how to avoid the club. But he learns all his lessons well and eventually becomes the leader of the team. The sheer hard work and effort of his snowy journeys seem never-ending.

But all the while experience and the ancient wilderness of his surrounding are awakening something in Buck; something old, something unrecognised, but something natural and instinctive. Often, as he lies by the camp fire, he dreams. He dreams of a man from the past, a man who wears skins, a man who lives in similar fear of constant danger. Some of these passages in The Call of the Wild, the ones where the long-ago animal, the old ways, the natural instinct slowly and surely grow in influence over Buck, the once indulged family pet, are absolutely beautiful. Buck longs for something but he knows not what. Read it: you'll see what I mean and you'll see what it is.

Of course, you could see all this as a simple story of adventure: Buck and his team deliver the dispatches in record time. You could see it also as a metaphor for the way people treat each other and how quickly the rule of violence can become the norm; how easily life can become truly 'dog eat dog'. In The Call of the Wild that's not a pun and nor did Jack London intend it to be - in the Alaskan wilderness, as in life, the doctrine of survival of the fittest oftentimes becomes sadly too true.

One of the things I like best about Jack London and The Call of the Wild now, as an adult, is the lack of condescension in the book's vocabulary. Babies learn to talk by listening: they listen to adults talking, not only to them, but to each other. They pick up meaning gradually and, little by little, they learn to translate that meaning into speech of their own. Children need words.

Call of the Wild is a children's book really, although many have said that it's suitable for adults too, and it is. But largely, it's an adventure story for children with some strong messages about the way people should treat animals, the way people should treat each other, about nature, about instinct, and about social structure and the abuse of power. I reckon you should put The Call of the Wild on your list. It's such a lovely story; one of those you remember from childhood, one of the ones you get all sniffly over when you read it again. It's also great to read aloud because the strong, fast-moving story fairly carries you along, and your children with you.

I hope this book will teach its readers to treat their animals right, to treat each other and everybody else right, and to continue to prove to me that a finely-crafted story, like The Call of the Wild, one told straight from the heart, is something to treasure for a lifetime.

If you're looking for a man and beast adventure story for slightly younger readers, try our review of The Last Wolf by Michael Morpurgo.

Booklists.jpg Call of the Wild by Jack London is in the Top Ten Classics of Children's Literature.

Booklists.jpg Call of the Wild by Jack London is in the Top Ten Books For Dog Lovers.

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Jim Taylor said:

As a young lad, which was back in the 30's, I had this book given to me for Christmas. I read it and enjoyed it very much. I always wanted to ride or drive a dog team.

I might get my desire completed.

This Christmas I am up to the North Pole a small town out east of Fairbanks. I saw a dog team go by on the Chena River where my granddaughter's house looks down on the river. Maybe after all these years I will have my life kong desire fullfilled.

I am reading a book about Sam O. White a early individual that had many howwering experiences here in the early days of Alaska.

Jill replied:

How lovely! I really hope your wish comes true!