The girl who howled
February 04th, 2021
In Teoni Spathelfer’s debut picture book, Little Wolf (Heritage $19.95) for young readers aged 4 – 8, a girl leaves her beloved Indigenous community when her mother and sister move to Vancouver.
It’s not easy adjusting to the “concrete jungle” as Little Wolf has been used to living close to nature and seeing animals wherever she goes. She particularly misses fishing with her grandfather and seeing dolphins leaping beside their boat.
At school, Little Wolf has trouble fitting in. Although her class has kids from many different cultures, no one is Heiltsuk like her. The other kids call her names and make her feel unwelcome. Little Wolf’s only defense is to howl like a wolf, which scares her classmates and makes them run away.
Gradually, Little Wolf discovers that there is wildlife in the big city too. An otter swims beside her as she walks on the seawall. A chickadee chirps in a tree in the big park near her house. And her mother helps her stay connected to their culture by signing them up for beading and dance classes.
With illustrations by Natassia Davies, Little Wolf combines traditional and contemporary Indigenous themes and artwork.
Teoni Spathelfer is a hereditary member of the Heiltsuk Nation. Since childhood she has loved immersing herself in her own culture and learning about other cultures around the world. Spathelfer has worked as a publicist, radio journalist, host and producer; and an arts and music writer. Her documentary Teoni’s Dream, informed by her mother’s residential school experience, was aired nationwide on CBC Radio. She divides her time between Ontario and B.C.
Natassia Davies is a Victoria-based artist and graphic designer, and is of Coast Salish ancestry from WSANEC territory. She has collaborated on multiple large-scale Indigenous murals that can be found throughout Sooke and Victoria’s harbour.