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English: Two Wolves

Plot Summary

One afternoon, four police officers visit Ben Silver’s home. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. Which is weird, because Ben’s family never goes on holidays. Why have they changed cars? What was in the grey sports bag that Uncle Chris gave Dad? And how can Mum and Dad think that staying in the falling-down cabin in the bush miles from anywhere is a holiday? Things aren’t right and Ben knows it. His parents are on the run. So Ben and Olive are running, too. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’ because he asks so many questions. Now Ben gathers evidence, writing down the clues in the brown leather notebook that belonged to his grandfather, trying to uncover what his parents have done. The trouble is, if he figures it out, what does he do next? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run?

About the author

Tristan Bancks tells stories for the page and screen. His books for kids and teens include Two WolvesThe Fallthe Tom Weekly series and 2020’s Nit Boy. Two Wolves won Honour Book in the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. It also won the YABBA and KOALA Children’s Choice Awards, as did his thriller, The Fall, a CBCA Notable book. Tristan is a writer-ambassador for literacy charity Room to Read. He is currently working with producers to develop several of his books for the screen.

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Questions for your classroom?

  1. Choose one of these topics to debate:  ‘Money can buy happiness’;  ‘Finders keepers’; ‘Greed leads to destruction’.
  2. Do you think adults could learn more from young people? What could they learn? 
  3. Discuss the character of Ben's grandfather. How does the character of 'Pop' deepen Ben’s internal conflict?
  4. Would the story be different if it had been written in first person or present tense?
  5. Are we destined to become like our parents/grandparents?
  6. Is it okay to lie to protect your family and loved ones?
  7. Does adversity breed strength? 

Tristan Bancks talks about his book


  • Self-esteem and weight - As part of his character arc and because of the circumstances he finds himself in – having to survive with no food in the bush – Ben gradually overcomes his weight issues. At the end of the book we learn that he has been lifting weights, and has grown taller in the year following his ordeal. His new level of fitness plays a role in helping him to stand up to his dad’s bullying.

  • Innocence vs. experience - Ben’s journey in Two Wolves is one of coming of age, of growing up and reaching maturity – his struggles, mental and physical, help him to learn resilience and strength, and to trust in his own judgement. His progression is clearly from innocence to experience, from ‘not-knowing’ to knowing. The question is, what kind of person will he become as he learns more about the world?

From Penguin Teaching Resource

Ethical dilemmas

  • What would you do with a bag of money? Would you keep it even it it wasn't yours? Even if it helps your family?
  • What if doing something wrong means doing something right for your family.
  • This is a dilemma that Ben is faced with. 
  • Do you think that money makes people happy and solves all their problems?
  • Can you still be a good person if you have done bad things?

What does the Title of the book mean?

The title of the book has meaning to the story and the characters. Two wolves refers to the good and bad sides of people, the good wolf and the bad wolf. The story comes from the Native American Cherokee people and tells the story of a grandfather telling his grandson a battle inside everyone. Watch the video below to learn more about the story.

How does this story reflect the characters in the book?


  • Nature, survival and fear - Ben’s story is one of survival. At first on the run from police with his parents, but later his story becomes one of actual life-or-death survival in the wilderness.
  • Self-perception: Who is ‘me’? - Ben likes to think about the concept of self, contemplating who he is and what ‘me’ means. The question, of course, becomes even more important as he learns more about what his parents have done, and he wonders whether he will become like them.

  • Family: ‘flesh and blood’ - Much of Ben’s dilemma revolves around the concept of family. What is family? Does family matter? If so, why? Should you lie or conceal the truth to help your family, even if they’ve done something wrong? How much of your character is in your genes? 

  • Truth and justice - Right v Wrong - When the police arrive at the cabin, Ben must make the ultimate decision: whether to run towards them or away. His decision will affect his family and even his and his sister’s lives, and he may come to regret it – but he must also learn to live with his decisions, and, in the end, make amends and set things right.

From Penguin Teaching Resource

Video and Audio Versions


Colour symbolism

GREEN : Green can often signify envy and greed, as well as money – but on the other hand it can signify nature and wilderness. Does the author make use of the symbolism of green in Two Wolves? 

YELLOW and brightness: Bright colours such as yellow are associated with Nan in the story. Nan’s house is bright and her yellow biscuit barrel is mentioned a couple of times, symbolising warmth, comfort, security and openness to Ben and Olive. She wears lots of bright, patterned clothes and has orange carpet in the house. What does yellow symbolise to you?

RED : Red comes up in innocuous ways in Two Wolves, but it also plays a role in creating the forceful, graphic imagery that sets the tone of this tense and powerful story. For instance: the red-raw ‘cooked’ rabbit on p. 116; Dad ploughing through the Big Red soup on p. 145; Ben sees blood-red water on p. 183 and p. 191; Dad draws blood when he bites Ben’s arm on p. 268.

From Penguin Teaching Resource

Books in the library


  • BEN dreams of being a police officer and is happiest when he’s in his dark, messy room eating microwaved jam doughnuts. Ben has a hard time at school and a complex relationship with his parents, due to his father taunting him and his mother's weight-loss tips. Ben’s journey is a coming of age story and helps him learn resilience, strength and to trust his own judgement. 
  • OLIVE is small, white-blonde, seven year-old and one of the smartest kids Ben knows. She has a peculiar way of looking at the world. She read The Hobbit by herself and for three weeks afterwards she refused to speak unless people called her ‘Gandalf’. She has an unbreakable will and sees her father for what he is.
  • RAY (Dad) is skinny and serious. An ex-mechanic, salesman and now motor wrecker. He wears an armful of tattoos, black wraparound sunglasses and a dirty cap with a petrol company logo on it. He has a chipped front tooth and looks ‘rat-like’, Ben thinks. He is ill-at-ease with fatherhood but there are moments that he wants to connect with Ben and Olive but does not know how.
  • APRIL (Mum) is ten years younger than Ray. People said she could have been a model years ago but then Ben was born and that changed everything. Now she works at Ray Silver Motor Wreckers instead. Dad thinks he runs the business but Mum does. She is trying to keep the family together, complying with Ray’s plan, lying to her children to protect them from the crime that has been committed.

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