Here’s an extended preview of our own Jamin Still’s excellent debut book, Ellen & the Winter Wolves. Our family really enjoyed this story. The art is wonderful and engaged all my kids (aged from 3 to 12). My six year old son especially enjoyed finding all the secret images hidden in each illustration. I’m confident your family will enjoy this as well. You can get it here. And while you’re there, check out Jamin’s amazing paintings. –S. D. Smith
Once upon a time in a far off land, there was a little girl named Ellen. She lived with her parents in a small town by the sea. Every spring, Ellen would eagerly watch for her father’s ship. He was a trader who often spent the winter far to the south, and he would return with the warming weather.
But one spring his ship did not come. Neither did any others. It was mid-May, and the harbor was still thick with ice, and winter storms raged up and down the coast. Winter’s icy grip, it was whispered, was strengthening instead of weakening, and no one knew what was to be done.
Ellen’s mother was worried. She didn’t say it outright, but Ellen knew. She could see it in how her mother looked out the window at the empty bay, or how she sighed when she put more wood on the fire. Her worry was as plain to Ellen as the moon in the sky.
Ellen was worried, too. What troubled her most was what she heard on the keening wind. She could hear the howls of wolves, and they made her shiver more than the cold ever could. When she asked her mother about it, she replied, “There, there, dear, you’re only imagining things.”
But Ellen felt sure she wasn’t imagining things. Something frightening was at work, and it was prolonging the winter and keeping her father from coming home.
One night as Ellen slept, she dreamt. And in her dream a green and golden voice like birdsong spoke to her and said,
“It seems that you can hear the Winter Wolves, dear girl.”
“I can,” said the dreaming Ellen.
“They have imprisoned me, and that is why the ice and snow remain,” said the voice. “But you can help! Go to my garden. One of my creatures is there – a peacock. Talk to him, and he will tell you what you need to do. He can be awakened with this rhyme:
Peacock, peacock, it’s time to arise. Rouse from your sleep and open your eyes.
And send him back to sleep with this rhyme:
Peacock, peacock, it’s time to sleep. Close your eyes now and rest deep.
But you must make haste!”
Ellen awoke with a start. “What a strange dream,” she said with a yawn. She would have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but she caught sight of a large skeleton key on her nightstand. “That’s funny,” Ellen murmured, “I don’t have a large skeleton key.” She picked it up and held it in a patch of moonlight. The handle was an acorn and the teeth an oak leaf. Tiny, etched vines ran along the length of the key. The vines pulsed with light. “Ohh!” Ellen said, and her heart began to race. And then she realized this was not the first time she had seen an acorn like this. Now fully awake, Ellen grabbed a scrap of paper, thought for a moment, and began to write: Peacock, peacock, it’s time to arise…
“I knew the wolves were real!” Ellen said as she finished. She quickly changed out of her pajamas, grabbed the piece of paper and the key, and tiptoed to the front door, careful not to wake her mother. Ellen pulled on her coat and mittens and hat, slipped into her boots, and quietly stepped out into the night…
Interested in what happens to Ellen? You can buy the hardcover, PDF, or audiobook by clicking the button below!