I feel like I should warn you upfront: Marti Dumas, the author of the delightful Jala and the Wolves, was a bosom bow of my childhood. We met in fifth grade when we were assigned desks next to each other at a public school in New Orleans, and immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits. We shared a love of books, making fortune tellers or swans out of folded paper, and giggling over terrible movies when we’d spend the night at each other’s homes. We kept in touch by phone after her mother sent her to Catholic School for sixth grade, and were joyfully reunited in middle school. My family moved away before high school and we lost touch for twenty years until the miracle/curse of Facebook.
Jala and the Wolves is essentially a love letter to her daughter with valuable lessons taught. It shows how well she knows and understands her daughter, down to the last detail. The novela starts with Thanksgiving approaching in New Orleans, and Jala craving bean pie (I know, I don’t know what that is, but the story makes it sound amazing.). After a series of interactions which show how perspective is different for everyone, Jala is sent to her room. Weird and magical things happen, and Jala realizes she has awakened as a wolf – a wolf with fancy striped legs, just like her favorite tights. She meets a new wolf pack, learns some lessons while running with them, and realizes how much she loves and appreciates her family.
I’d say it’s a fantastic starter novel – about the length of an Encyclopedia Brown book – and a great book to read with the 7 to 9-year-olds in your life.