In Thomas D. Peacock's new novel, an old wolf doesn't know he has become old until the pups begin calling him Zhi-shay, or Uncle, and begin asking him for answers to the big questions. After he has gotten permission from higher ranking members of the pack, he gathers in a circle with the precocious littles to "talk story."
"Eyes in front," he tells them. "Tails behind."
Peacock's "The Wolf's Trail: An Ojibwe Story, Told By Wolves" (2020, Holy Cow! Press) is a collection of creation stories and wisdom for the future, chapters presented from the perspective of the wizened elder wolf whose roam has included Northeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. He teaches the pups about how the world was formed and the lifelong friendship between man and wolf. He tells about the death of a pack rival, the loyalty of an animal toward its namer, and how the Others came along with new clothes, new tools, new religion and influenced the Ojibwe in a way that went against their teachings.
These stories are told with the ease of campfire tales and the weight of history. The set-ups star the mostly nameless pups from a pack of countless animals who are sometimes wise about the ways of love and loyalty, sometimes silly about the definition of misunderstood words, and sometimes truthy. One asks Zhi-shay to breathe in a different direction because of his breath.
Peacock, who was a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Anishinaabe. And he is, like his main character, among the best storytellers. He has won multiple Minnesota Book Awards. His most recent novel, "Beginnings: The Homeward Journey of Donovan Manypenny," also from Holy Cow! Press, told the story of a Native American man who was, as a child, adopted by a white couple. In his 50s, he decides to learn more about his roots.
Title: "The Wolf's Trail: An Ojibwe Story, Told By Wolves"
Author: Thomas D. Peacock
Publisher: Holy Cow! Press
Upcoming: Thomas D. Peacock and Tony Dierckins, the author and publisher at Zenith City Press, host a virtual tour of Duluth as part of the Duluth Public Library's annual "Learning & Libations" event. Those interested can stream "The History All Around Us" on demand between Sept. 19-Sept. 30. Register at duluthlibraryfoundation.org or call the Duluth Library Foundation office at 218-341-1894.
Here are two other new books with local ties:
As you head into the week ahead, take some tips from Alice the Elephant: believe in yourself, trust love, not everyone has to like you always, find good in each day, work on humility.
Local physician-turned-Shamanic healer Sarah Seidelmann's "How Good Are You Willing to Let it Get" offers horoscope-like daily inspiration from the pachyderm and longtime star of her meditation sessions. It's billed as feel good information for creatives, healers and helpers. Each day has its own words of wisdom, starting with a message from Alice and including a translation from Seidelmann, a prayer and a prompt.
Alice (and Seidelmann) offer big personality, humor, and messages of gratitude and optimism.
Here is Alice on July 24: "When you come across somebody you deeply admire — a global decoupage phenomenon, an electric sitar genius, a 1970s television darling — think of them as being on your soul team. A sacred, golden threat connects you."
Seidelmann chronicles how she met Alice in her memoir "Swimming with Elephants." The duo came together during a shamanic journey and is the 1800s-era theatrical character with kind eyes Seidelmann turns to most often from her pack of beasties.
She told the News Tribune in 2017: "For me, Alice is as real and distinctive as any other being in my life — except that she doesn't manifest on earth."
Title: "How Good Are You Willing To Let It Get: Daily Feel Good Inspiration for Creatives, Healers, and Helpers."
Author: Sarah Seidelmann with Alice the Elephant
Publisher: Sarah Seidelmann, LLC
These days, a Chico Bon Bon chronicle — created by Duluth artist Chris Monroe — comes with a small circle sticker on the cover of the picture book geared for preschoolers (and humans who like things that are funny): A Netflix Original series. In recent months, the monkey with a tool belt and friends have gone Hollywood with two seasons-worth of a antics.
And now, another book.
"Monkey with a Tool Belt Blasts Off" opens with the star and his elephant buddy Clark en route to outer space, exclamation point. The duo is off to fix the moon malt machine, which has a mysterious glitch, and are helped along by a new friend.
Monroe, who has experience in the tool belt biz, always shines in listing Chico's accessories, which play like a complex rhyme: spacer-tracer-gravity erase/ star tacks-moon maul-comet grommets-space ball/ Hamill hammer-starzall-planet spanner-Catch-a-Star/ major tommer-Mars tar-Galactic hatchet/ Bubble phaser-rocket socket-gummi laser-rock on a stick. Also, the details. In this one, Chico wears good ole fashioned moon boots.
Title: "Monkey With a Tool Belt Blasts Off"
Author: Chris Monroe
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books