THE WILD BOOK by Margarita Engle
Kirkus Star

THE WILD BOOK

Age Range: 10 - 14
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A young girl tackles a learning disability and the uncertainty of daily life in early-20th-century Cuba.

Ten years old at the tale’s opening, Josefa “Fefa” de la Caridad Uría Peña lives with her parents and 10 siblings on their farm, Goatzacoalco. Diagnosed with “word blindness” (a misnomer for dyslexia), Fefa struggles at school and in a home rich with words, including the writings of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. Discounting a doctor’s opinion that “Fefa will never be able / to read, or write, / or be happy / in school,” her mother gives her a blank diary: “Let the words sprout / like seedlings, / then relax and watch / as your wild diary / grows.” Basing her tale on the life of her maternal grandmother, Engle captures the frustrations, setbacks and triumphs of Fefa’s language development in this often lyrical free-verse novel. Her reading difficulties are heightened when bandits begin roving the countryside, kidnapping local children for ransom: “All I can think of / is learning how / to read / terrifying / ransom notes.” The author gives readers a portrait of a tumultuous period in Cuban history and skillfully integrates island flora, fauna and mythology into Fefa’s first-person tale. This canvas heightens Fefa’s determination to rise above the expectations of her siblings, peers and society.

A beautiful tale of perseverance. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-58131-6
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2012




BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF 2012:

ChildrenTHE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate
by Katherine Applegate
ChildrenEXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett
by Mac Barnett
ChildrenGEORGIA IN HAWAII by Amy Novesky
by Amy Novesky
ChildrenTHE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES by Brian Farrey
by Brian Farrey
ChildrenEAST DRAGON, WEST DRAGON by Robyn Eversole
by Robyn Eversole

MORE BY MARGARITA ENGLE

ChildrenORANGUTANKA by Margarita Engle
by Margarita Engle
ChildrenDRUM DREAM GIRL by Margarita Engle
by Margarita Engle

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

ChildrenRAINING SARDINES by Enrique Flores-Galbis
by Enrique Flores-Galbis
ChildrenWAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor
by Leslie Connor
ChildrenCASSIE AND JASPER TO THE RESCUE by Bryn Fleming
by Bryn Fleming