The 2023 Giverny Awardwinner is the 32-page children's science storybook, The River that Wolves Moved: A True Tale from Yellowstone byauthor Mary Kay Carson and illustrator David Hohn. The book was published in 2022 by Sleeping Bear Press.
Our Winning Book Synopsis
Our 2023 Giverny Award winner uses the repetition and cadence of “The House that Jack Built” to demonstrate the importance of one organism in an ecosystem. Beautiful watercolor illustrations accompany the narrative and vividly depict the plants and animals that now thrive along a river in Yellowstone National Park.
We meet the main characters of the book in the first illustrations: the gray wolves and a girl and her grandfather who hike along the river. We learn that wolves were absent from Yellowstone National Park for over 70 years, and without these predators, the elk overgrazed the willow trees that grew along the river’s edge. Without the willows, water eroded the riverbanks sending sediments into the river’s waters. The river now flowed more quickly, eroding even more of the river channel.
Once gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, the hungry wolves reduced the elk population. Elks kept a watchful eye for the wolves and no longer stayed along the river eating willows. This meant that the willows could again grow and stabilize the banks of the river. With the willows in place, songbirds nested in the willows’ branches and beavers returned to the river and built dams to further slow the water—which created even more habitats for other animals, including insects, frogs, and ducks. Fish could thrive in the cold clear waters once there were fewer sediments muddying the river.
The return of one species—the wolves—resulted in big changes and a thriving ecosystem for the park.
The River That Wolves Moved: A True Tale from Yellowstone incorporates several science concepts, including food webs, biodiversity, river processes and erosion. The book’s final pages discuss what influences a river’s flow and summarizes how wolves can impact, and move, a river. The reader also learns that Yellowstone National Park’s rivers and ecosystems face a new threat since areas bordering the park now permit hunting of wolves.
Our 2023 Giverny book is written by Mary Kay Carson, a nonfiction children’s author who focuses on science and history topics. She studied biology in college and discovered she enjoyed writing when she was a freshwater fisheries extension agent in the Peace Corps. Carson likes writing about general topics for children, and incorporating creativity in her writing. She has written over 50 books.
David Hohn, the illustrator, creates art in both digital and traditional media such as watercolor and oil. He attempted to make each wolf in this story a little different so that readers could follow these individual wolves throughout the book’s pages. Hohn provides different perspectives for the story’ components, from overhead views to close-up scenes of the wildlife. He also included a view from the river itself, where we can see the girl’s feet dangling in the water as the fish swim below her.
We think our youngest readers will find The River That Wolves Moved: A True Tale from Yellowstone to be an informative story that becomes more engaging each time it is read. From the repetitive cadence to the interesting facts of the ecosystem, to following the different wolves throughout the story, this book will affirm that all organisms have a place of importance in our world.
The 2023 Giverny Exhibit at Mississippi State University was created by Amy Moe-Hoffman, Dunn-Seiler Museum Collections Manager, and intern Hannah Moffett.