Patrick Jennings. The Wolving Time. Scholastic, 2003. ISBN 978-0439395557 208 pp. $
Lazlo Emberek appears to be nothing more than a simple shepherd on the verge of puberty who spins and guards his family’s small flock; it turns out he comes from a family of shapeshifters who can turn into werewolves, and he can’t wait until he acquires the same skill. When he becomes friends with a young girl entrapped as a servant and scapegoat by the corrupt village priest, his family’s secrets come under suspicion of witchery. Drama mounts as the fear of the villagers, incited by the priest, increases. Ultimately, this conflict plays into Lazlo’s decision to take advantage of his canine heritage or turn from it.
Jennings’s story is replete with earthy details of life in sixteenth century France, including how they got their food, what they wore, an account of going to market day, and a fair amount of nakedness and violence. The writing is very good, with all five senses attended to–a comparison of the sense of smell of a human boy and a wolf is remarkable. Jennings’s use of historical setting and likening werewolves to witch hunts is both clever and plausible. However, the werewolf as a metaphor for teen adolescent has been done before; the character of Lazlo doesn’t contain the soul searching or angst of Annette Curtis Klause’s Vivian from Blood and Chocolate (Bantam, 1997) and is not as engaging. Still, the theme of persecution of those different from us and what it means to act monstrously could augment classroom or book group discussion nicely.