Coyote Autumn

by Bill Wallace
Reviewed date: 2010 Feb 5
208 pages
cover art

Twelve-year-old Brad McBride has always wanted a pet. When his family moves from a Chicago apartment to an Oklahoma farmhouse, he finally has the opportunity. But his parents always respond with "We'll see" when Brad mentions a dog. So when opportunity strikes, Brad seizes it. One day he witnesses some hunting dogs kill a pair of coyotes and their pups--all except one pup, which Brad rescues. With some advice from an old family friend, and with the reluctant support of his parents, Brad determines to tame his coyote and keep him as a pet.

Brad names his coyote Scooter. At first Scooter is wild, but in time, Brad tames him enough that he can be handled. He's never quite fully tame, though, a fact which becomes evident as Scooter grows up. At night he howls to the other coyotes. At feeding time, he reacts violently to being approached. He comes only reluctantly when called. And he mauls Brad's baby brother to death. OK, not really. Scooter only snaps at Brad's older sister Adelee, who is holding the baby, but it scares Brad and the whole family to their senses. Scooter is a wild animal.

It's hard for Brad to understand, at first. He's worked so hard to tame Scooter. But Brad sees that Scooter revels in the freedom of being wild, so he makes the decision to release Scooter at a wildlife preserve.

I found Coyote Autumn to be a decent book, but not great. I appreciate Bill Wallace's choice not to vilify the hunters. They enjoy a good coyote hunt, but they're decent human beings. They're not evil killers. Hunting is presented as a natural part of farm life in Oklahoma.

My eleven-year-old daughter says that Coyote Autumn is the best book ever. It's even better than her previous favorite: No Dogs Allowed, also by Bill Wallace.

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