Children of the Wolf is a special touchstone in Jane Yolen’s prolific career. Already an acknowledged leader in picture books, fantasy, and literary folktale with more than seventy books published before 1984, Yolen made her serious debut into historical fiction with this book.
Its forerunner and Yolen’s first young adult novel, The Gift of Sarah Barker (1981), is a fictionalized story set in the nineteenth century about two Shakers who fall in love. Sarah and Abel must choose between their own love and banishment from their society. Yolen followed Children of the Wolf with The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988), a historically correct time-warp story of the Holocaust that concentrates on the importance of Hannah’s remembering. All Those Secrets of the World (1991) is an autobiographical picture story book about a summer on the Chesapeake when Michael, Steve, and Janie’s dad goes off to war. Letting Swift River Go (1992) shows how Sally lets go of the past and welcomes the changes brought to her rural Massachusetts town brought on by the new Quablin Reservoir. Encounter (1992) is the story of a young Taino boy’s premonition about Christopher Columbus that warns of the consequences of not respecting other’s rights in any encounter. In these novels, Yolen addresses serious, real issues in the collective past, interweaving in them motifs and themes from folklore and mythology.