The Wolves Are Back Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
by Jean Craighead George - A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of what it means to care for the environment and the impact each animal has on an ecosystem.

If you visit Yellowstone National Park, you will hear the story of the wolves who disappeared from the park because of people’s fear of them. Once the wolves were gone, the park soon realized what an important role in the ecosystem wolves play. This book shares that same story of how much the wolves were missed and eventually how the wolves were introduced back into the park. Now these important animals live in harmony with the rest of the natural world—plants and animals. People of all ages will appreciate the powerful balance of nature illustrated and lovingly told in this true story.

Before Reading

ASK: Do you think wolves are good or bad? Why do you think that?

SHOW: Look at the cover. If you heard a wolf howl in the wild, would you be afraid or would you like hearing the sound?

CONNECT: Wolves are not gentle animals. They are at the top of the food chain. They eat other animals. That is part of their nature. It doesn’t make them bad. Wolves don’t hunt or hurt people.

During Reading

ASK: What does the author mean when she writes, “Like pieces in a kaleidoscope, the broken parts of the wilderness were tumbling into place”? Is a kaleidoscope a good image for the wilderness? Why?

SHOW: Look at the page with the Vesper sparrows and the wolf pup. Notice that the grasses have grown tall. The reintroduction of the wolves even changed the plant life. What had been eating the grass when the wolves were gone?

CONNECT: If no wolf had ever attacked a person in North America, why do you think people feared them?

After Reading

ASK: What does it mean that the wilderness is in balance?

SHOW: Look back through the book at all the different kinds of wildlife and plant life pictured. Notice how the artist uses paints to show movement, color, and texture. Do you think the artist likes nature?

CONNECT: Does nature need human help to stay in balance? How?


  1. Visit a natural area away from the city. Go for a hike and listen for sounds of nature. Talk about what you hear. Sit down in a quiet area and don’t talk or make sounds for ten minutes. Count with tally marks on paper or on your fingers how many different sounds of nature you hear.

  2. Pick up trash on your walks in the woods and around town. Pollution is bad for the environment wherever it is.

  3. Recycle, reduce, and reuse whatever you can at your home and school. Try to reduce the amount of trash you generate in a week. If we use fewer new resources, we can preserve more wildlife and natural areas.

  4. Make a poster to teach other people about the importance of enjoying nature. Ask if you can hang the poster up at school or in another public area.

  5. If your school doesn’t have recycling bins for paper and plastic, talk to your teacher about how you can help get recycling started.

  6. Go outside with a sketch pad and draw flowers, insects, and other small things in nature.