Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
In the time of hunter-gatherers when ancient forest covered the land, a boy loses his father to an evil in the shape of a monstrous bear that threatens their entire world. Possibly the father is partially culpable for this evil, but before he dies he makes his soon-to-be orphaned son promise to destroy the bear. The boy will be helped in this seemingly impossible task by a prophecy, a riddle, three lost artifiacts, an orphaned wolf cub, and a young girl from another clan.
A boy who must make right the errors of his elders by successfully appealing to the Mountain of the World Spirit is a classic tale of renewal. The spirit of life will overcome the powers of destruction through the courage, fortitude, and intelligence of the newest generation. Many perils stand between the boy and his goal; the constant challenge to survival and the pressing need of the mission keep this story moving at a breakneck pace.
A similarly intrepid look on the faces of the many boys in my classes who kept asking for the next book in this series, Chronicle of Ancient Darkness, prompted me to find out what was appealing to them and to read the book. Danger never abates, courage must constantly be renewed, and purpose is unrelenting. This book has appealed equally to well-seasoned readers and to reluctant readers, so far only boys though girls who like animals and wilderness survival stories should enjoy it as well. Ninth graders as well as middle school students have enjoyed this book, but it is not a complex plot and enthusiastic readers as young as fourth grade will probably like it.