Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
In the sequel to Street Shadows, city coyote Pica is carried far away, into the land of wolves. Will she survive and make it back to Scruff?
Winter is here, and coyotes Pica and Scruff are having trouble finding enough food to survive. Their only option may be to steal food from humans, which Scruff thinks is a necessary risk, while Pica thinks it’s too dangerous. After they get into a bitter fight, the unthinkable happens: Pica gets locked into a delivery truck and driven far away from the city, into the land of the wolves.
When Pica disappears and doesn’t return for weeks, Scruff is devastated. He doesn’t know if the fight drove her away or if something happened to her. Not knowing what else to do, he eventually moves on and meets a new pack. However, these new friends rely heavily on human food, and he knows that by joining them he’s playing a dangerous game.
Pica, alone in the wilderness, must call on all of her strength and courage to survive in this new landscape. She has to get back to Scruff before it’s too late. The clock is ticking, and leg traps, wolves, and a giant icy mountain range stand between Pica and her home.
About the author
Claire Gilchrist is an author and middle school teacher. She loves all canids, and has done extensive research on urban coyotes as well as worked as an educator for the Co-Existing with Coyotes Program in Vancouver, B.C. She currently splits her time between White Salmon, Washington, and Victoria, B.C.
Excerpt: Lost Shadow (by (author) Claire Gilchrist)
Part One: Pica and Scruff
Chapter One: Forest
Pica woke from her nap and, without opening her eyes, curled up more tightly against Scruff. The warmth from his body helped ward off the cold radiating up from the frozen ground. From the nearby street, car horns shouted at each other, and tires squished along in the rain. Ugh. Winter. Although it was only her first winter, she was already sure that it was her least favourite season.
A little while later, after a particularly loud truck horn honked, Scruff stirred. She felt him lift his head, and then, a few seconds later, he thumped it back down onto the hard-packed dirt.
“Do you feel it?” he asked quietly.
“Feel what?” Pica cracked one eye and squinted at him, puzzled.
Pica opened both eyes wider and looked through a gap in the branches of the bush where they lay. All she could see was grey sky. She could hear the rain pounding the ground around them, and freezing drops seeped through the dense cover, dropping onto her already soaking fur.
“Ha. Right. Now you’re going crazy on me.”
“No, really. Just close your eyes and think about it. It’s the hillside. You’re lying in the long grass, with the crickets chirping. You can smell the earth baking in the heat. Your fur feels hot, but you’re too lazy to move. You can sense the sun behind your eyelids, so bright and warm.” He paused, and suddenly, Pica saw it all.
The hillside above the golf course was where she and her three siblings were raised. It was a paradise: long, hot days and long, soft grasses. Her first few months had been perfect, together with her whole family, learning how to hunt and playing with her older brother, Dane. Perfect — until Scruff and Jagger had come and ruined everything. She breathed in sharply, remembering the day that her father had not come home. She knew now that Scruff had been tricked into helping kill her father, manipulated by his older brother, Jagger. But at the time, rage had burned white-hot in her body.
Another loud car horn brought her back to the present. She lifted her head to look over at Scruff, softening as she reflected on how much had changed since that day. His eyes were closed, and he had a goofy smile on his face. They had teamed up to fight off Jagger and then travelled to the Wild Lands for a new life. It was time to move on and put the past where it belonged: in the past.
She jumped up and shook her wet fur in his face, smiling as his eyes popped open and he frowned.
“Hey, you ruined my nap in the sun!”
“I’m hungry. Dreaming about the past is not going to help us survive this winter.”
“I’m hungry, too.” He gave her chin a little lick. “I’m just trying to make us feel better.”
Pica sighed. “I know. Thank you. But we’re never going back to the golf course. It’s not even a golf course anymore, with all the houses the humans have built on it. This is our life now, and it’s winter. Let’s figure out where to find food today.”
She gently touched his nose to soften her speech. Weeks ago, they had crossed the bridge to these Wild Lands in search of a new home. But since then, they hadn’t found any good territory that wasn’t already occupied by a coyote pack, and they hadn’t found much food, either. They had hoped for more opportunity here, because the houses were farther apart, and there were more green spaces. Being young, small coyotes unable to challenge larger coyotes for territory, what they needed was to find somewhere less competitive to start their new life together. Unfortunately, it seemed they weren’t the first to discover this area; there were just as many big coyotes fighting for a good territory here as there were in the city. At this point, they were starting to feel trapped. Going back to the city wasn’t a solution, but they weren’t sure they could find a home here, either.
Pica’s stomach growled loudly, and Scruff poked her with his nose. “I heard that. That’s enough moping for both of us. It’s time to go meet the local mice!”
She found herself smiling despite her hunger and the cold. It was hard, but being with Scruff made it better. He made everything fun. That was what she had liked about him the first time she met him, when he had appeared at the golf course one day, wanting to chase a ball down the hill with her. He’d always been able to cheer her up. She jumped up and shook some of the water off her fur, feeling a tiny glimmer of joy. Even though things were bad, at least she had her best friend by her side.
They spent the next half hour cleaning and grooming themselves carefully, licking the water off their fur and getting the dirt out from between the pads of their feet. It was an evening ritual they had started while waiting for it to get dark enough to head out safely. Finally, the sky darkened, and the world around them faded to shades of grey.
As they left the undesirable area full of smelly, scrubby bushes where they had been forced to spend the day, Pica looked at Scruff thoughtfully. “I think we should try something new tonight.”
Scruff cocked his head to the side. “What? You don’t want to wander around in the rain all night and be cold and wet and get chased by other coyotes? Why not?”
Pica shook her head, laughing. “Scruff. Be serious. We clearly aren’t having much luck in this area. We need to get farther away from humans and territory that’s already been claimed. I think we need to head deeper into the forest and —”
She glared at him. “Let me finish. We should head deeper into the big forest and see what it’s like. Maybe we’ll be able to find our own hunting grounds there.”
“We’ve already talked about it. It’s too great a risk.”
She thought about their third day in the Wild Lands. They had been so full of anticipation then, certain they were about to discover something magical. On the edge of a housing development, they had found a deep, dark forest with trees bigger than any she’d ever seen before. They hadn’t been able to hear or smell an end to it. Curious, they had ventured in, and within five minutes were confronted with a set of smells and sounds they never experienced in the city. They smelled lots of birds and rodents, but puzzlingly, they didn’t come across a single coyote marking. They had tripped over each other with joy. Maybe this would be a good place to make a home.
But then they had smelled something strange. Pica hadn’t recognized it, but something in the way her body reacted told her it was dangerous. The fur had stood up on the back of her neck, and, looking over at Scruff, she’d seen his fur standing up, too. Whatever it was, it felt bigger and darker than anything they had ever encountered in the city. Without discussion, they had both turned around and fled the forest. They had never returned.
“Listen.” Pica sighed now. “It might be dangerous, but there is risk here, too. We aren’t finding enough mice, and if we eat another bad batch of human garbage, we might get too weak to hunt. I’m not saying we’ll go forever. I just think we need to investigate a little bit more.”
Scruff hesitated. Then his stomach gave a loud rumble. He smiled ruefully. “All right. My stomach agrees with you. We’ll go in, but not far. Just enough to find out more about the forest. And if we see any coyotes nearby, we’ll ask them about it. And if we smell that … thing, we get out.”
“Deal.” Pica smiled. For the first time this week, she felt a small puff of hope rising inside of her. Finally, they were taking action. The forest could be great for them, and even if it wasn’t, how much worse could it be than what they were already experiencing?
Themes of friendship, family, and survival make this sequel a good cozy read. The research that has gone into Lost Shadow gives readers a unique look into the lives of coyotes and, hopefully, a better understanding and respect for these intelligent animals. Highly recommended.
Drawing on science and experience, Claire Gilchrist vividly imagines the adventures and inner lives of two young coyotes, allowing us to follow in their tracks as they grow, play, and fight to survive in an often-hostile world. You won't forget Pica and Scruff.
Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction
Lost Shadow is a highly entertaining, imaginative, and well-researched exploration into the lives of coyotes, wolves, and the importance of wilderness. Although it serves as a sequel to Claire Gilchrist's enthralling Street Shadows, it works as a stand-alone novel too. Give this innovative story to fans of the Redwall and Warriors book series who are looking for a more realistic animal adventure. Once you experience the world through Scruff and Pica's perspectives, you'll never see coyotes, or humans, the same. Lost Shadow is an exciting and transformational coyote adventure written with wit, wisdom, and heart.
Todd Mitchell, author of Last Panther
Claire Gilchrist's book, Lost Shadow, is absorbing, fun, and easy to read: it's an enticing adventure story with multiple cliffhangers that pull you along right to the end of the book! On a deeper level, it's the story of friendship and interactions amid unforeseen circumstances that are the warp and weave of life, with little snippets and gems of phrasing that every child will want to reflect on and, ultimately, incorporate into themselves. This all is woven into a story about coyotes which is chalk full of accurate details about coyote behaviour, mannerisms, and human culture and issues towards them. The book is a wonderful gateway for opening awareness about these critters. Several fascinating facts are delineated at the back of the book. Beautifully written and well researched.
Janet Kessler, coyote expert and creator of Coyote Yipps
Just terrific. A howling good tale! Soon after Pica and Scruff claim a place in the Wild Lands, their friendship is torn apart. While Scruff tangles with some menacing humans, Pica is snatched from her home. So begins an odyssey of misadventure and a trial of patience and enduring love. In Lost Shadow, Claire Gilchrist continues her unique saga about urban coyotes, their perilous struggle to survive, and their battles and special bonds. Moreover, the novel reveals an inner world living by stealth and daring in your own backyard. Beyond the revelations about urban wildlife, readers — young and old — will confront their own place within the animal kingdom. Open your eyes and ears to Lost Shadow. The cries you hear could well be your own.
D. F. Bailey, author of Run Time
Closer to Incredible Journey than The Call of the Wild; will elicit pleased howls from young pups.