Masterpiece Monday: The Call of the Wild

John Thornton and Buck

How to market "The Call of the Wild" to 12-year-olds (Image by Dunechaser via Flickr)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Today I helped my mom prepare her classroom so it would be ready when her new batch of third-graders comes through her door next week. All the putting up bulletin boards and labeling folders made me think about my favorite books in elementary school. Naturally, most are children’s books and therefore not eligible for this meme, but I remembered my phase in sixth grade where I read practically every book about wolves for some reason (this being the phase before I discovered the magic of Harry Potter).

I know that The Call of the Wild by Jack London is not about an actual wolf, but the story still applies. Published in 1903, the novel narrates the journey of Buck, a dog who is stolen from his owner in Santa Clara by the man’s gardener’s assistant. He’s sold to two French Canadians in Alaska, who then train him to pull a sled. After a fight with another dog, Buck becomes the alpha male. Unfortunately, he is passed on to other owners, who have no survival or sledding experience. The rest of the novel tracks Buck’s attempts to live in the Alaskan wilderness despite his incompetent, cruel masters.

I won’t spoil the end, but if you enjoy books about nature, animals, and survival of the fittest, then The Call of the Wild is for you. London is one of the greatest American authors, especially of the naturalist movement. His writing captures reality, describing the hard, gritty lifestyle of the Alaskan sled-dog.

However, most 12-year-olds don’t appreciate books without pictures or captains in underpants, so for all of my classmates who were forced to listen to me read the first few chapters of this book, I apologize. I thought (being the nerd I am) that since I loved it so much, I had to share my joy with others. Fortunately, my teacher stopped me after a few story-time attempts, lest I get something thrown at my head!

I’d love to re-read this book and London’s others, including White Fang, just to see how my reading experience has changed in a decade. Whether you’ve read The Call of the Wild as a child or an adult, let me know what you thought–and if you haven’t read it yet, get started quickly before school takes over your life!

Favorite Quote: “He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. He linked the past with the present, and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed.” (Ch. 6)

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