Small Wolf

Small Wolf coverSmall Wolf

Submitter: I found this lovely lesson in racism in our Early Readers section. I would hesitate to share this with any child without lots of explanation, but particularly not with a child just learning to read. Yikes!

Holly: I’m dying to know what happened in the story! Submitter included a page where someone or something was shot, and there was a thunk…what was it?? Really, though, let’s let this one go to the great fairy tale Thanksgiving in the sky (also known as the Friends of the Library Book Sale).


Native Americans swimming




  1. I can certainly see the racism here. Just because someone is white and a man, it doesn’t mean he looks like the devil. He’s probably bald as well.

  2. I’m curious as to what makes the story racist. The handful of pages make the book seem much less flattering to whites. Its age would make me assume that its attitudes toward Native Americans is likely dated, but those post 60’s counter-culture years also produced stuff that attempted to address those issues (for better or worse), so who knows.

  3. Nathaniel Benchley wrote the novel on which the film The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! was based; his father Robert was a humorist and film actor; and his son Peter wrote Jaws

  4. Nasty settlers whose descendants will vote for Trump are Dutch – though it is unlikely that they would have flown the Netherlands’ flag in what is no doubt one day going to become New York City…

    1. it is unlikely that they would have flown the Netherlands’ flag
      It’s hard to tell without knowing the original, pre-fading colors of the book cover. If the top bar is intended to be orange, it could be accurate (assuming pre-1664).

      On the other hand, some perfunctory research confirms that the Lenape did not live in skin tipis (hint to the author: “wigwam” is a Lenape word), and they used dugout canoes, not birchbark.

      Query: Why does the boy on the cover look so surprised? That cozy-looking building with groomed lawn and reinforced shoreline didn’t crop up overnight. The page at goodreads may shed a tiny bit more light. But I’m inclined to think that the crucial question of “when is a boy old enough to hunt alone” was decided on more solid grounds than “when he starts nagging about it”–and you certainly wouldn’t allow it if there were unexplored areas within easy canoeing distance.

    2. Why would it have been unlikely that the Dutch would have flown their own flag in a place they called New Amsterdam? A place they founded until they lost in a war with the English, who renamed it New York. Seems like a perfectly reasonable and logical thing to do.

    3. Sure they would have. They didn’t call it New Amsterdam for nothing. They would have considered themselves Dutch the way the early settlers of New England considered themselves English.

  5. This certainly is racist. While the native Americans are actually well drawn, the whites all look demented, and the appear to be the product of inbreeding.

  6. Having read this book, I’d like to speak in its defence. Yes, it’s old, and probably quite inaccurate, so it can probably be weeded without much loss, but its heart is in the right place. It’s a simple, touching story about how Little Wolf and his family first discover the white people, and how because of those white people they’re eventually forced to move… and move again… and move again…

    As a first introduction to the more unsavory side of American history, children could do a lot worse.

    1. Thanks. I’ve honestly been curious as to what the book was about for the original poster to seem so offended by it, because the images they submitted don’t strike me as terribly bad, certainly not given the time in which it was published. If anything, it sounds a little more sympathetic to Native Americans than earlier books would have. Probably still too dated to keep on shelves, but I’m not sure what type of explanation children would require before reading it.

      And as for the depiction of whites – if they’re being portrayed from the point of view of a young Native American encountering them for the first time, I don’t think what we see here is out of line. I was curious as to whether the book went the route of everyone getting over their differences and becoming friends or the more realistic route it sounds like it took.

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