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WILD LIFE by Cynthia DeFelice


by Cynthia DeFelice

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: May 10th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-38001-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A rare boy-and-his-gun story that accepts a hunting culture instead of demonizing the tool. Both of Erik's Reservist parents are being deployed to Iraq. Erik wants to stay in upstate New York with a friend whose father has been helping them get their Hunter Safety Certificates and dreams of living like the pioneers, camping out and shooting game for food. By contrast, being sent to North Dakota to live with farming grandparents last seen nine years ago when he was three just sounds ghastly, though of course that's exactly what happens. Once there, Erik finds the complete emptiness of the prairie landscape boring. While Oma is friendly and kind, Opa, known as Big Darrell, is intimidating. A room belonging to an uncle who died in Vietnam hints at the source of Big Darrell’s gruffness, but it doesn’t explain his rejection of a dog that Erik helps rescue from a porcupine attack. As his inevitable disgruntlement leads Erik to attempt life in the wild, readers are treated to a modern-day anti-survival adventure. The inevitable mishaps and how Erik copes provide some adventure, but he returns so easily that readers may feel cheated. Sturdily conveyed, the lessons are telegraphed on each page. The boy-and-dog partnership here is mildly appealing, but what really makes it stand out are the deftly folded-in gun lessons and easy acceptance of the way of life they accompany. (Fiction. 8-12)