A children's novel by Marion Dane Bauer.
In a forest in Minnesota, four wolf pups are born. Their mother names them for the potential she sees in them, and the pack celebrates the arrival of its newest members. Then a fifth pup is born. Though he is unique in that he has his father's coat, he is small and weak. His parents cannot see any outstanding features to name him after, so he is simply named "Runt". As Runt grows, he struggles to find his place in the pack and earn a new name.
This book provides examples of:
- Animal Naming Conventions: Wolves are named for either their features or their standing in the pack.
- Animal Talk: There's basically one animal language - wolves, dogs, ravens, owls, porcupines, and squirrels all speak the same language. (Except, for whatever reason, cows and deer don't seem to talk.)
- Earn Your Title: Basically, Runt is trying to get himself a new name.
- Eye Scream: Thinker's eye is pierced by a porcupine quill. The pup dies of infection shortly afterward.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: Played with. Most of the wolves feel this way, and when Runt realizes that his actions have probably resulted in his brother's death (and has a face full of porcupine needles besides), he goes to a human house because he wants death. The humans care for him instead, removing his porcupine quills, but after he returns to the pack, they mostly refuse to interact with him because he's been around humans. Later on, Bider kills a cow and convinces Runt to try to get the pack to eat it. The pack refuses to join the meal because the cow was owned by humans; Bider himself goes back to eat it. Turns out it's poisoned, and a very good reason to stay away from humans.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: How Bider feels. He used to be the leader of his pack, but he was driven out, forced to beg for a position in a different pack, and now he simply is biding his time to try and usurp King, thus the name he has in this pack.
- It's All My Fault: Runt feels this way after he provokes Porcupine, which results in his brother taking a quill to the eye and dying.
- Meaningful Name: Each wolf is named for its position in the pack or a feature that stands out about them, such as King, Hunter, Helper, Sniffer, Silver, and Thinker.
- Meaningful Rename: In the end, Runt is renamed Singer for his voice, and this signifies that he has truly earned his place in the pack.
- Spring Is Late: The first line of the book says that spring comes late to Minnesota.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Runt only wants to please his father, King.