The well-documented case of a feral child who didn’t speak, ran on all fours, and was captured in post-Revolution France and studied by a succession of Enlightenment-influenced thinkers gets an interesting, well-informed retelling, but unlike his inquisitors, the boy never comes into focus.
Two who studied him left detailed accounts of their observations: a teacher at a boys’ school, Pierre-Joseph Bonnaterre, and later, a doctor at a Paris school for deaf-mute children, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, who undertook his education and gave him his name: Victor. Itard’s intelligent, compassionate housekeeper opened her home to him. Though Victor never learned to speak, Itard’s mostly humane, child-centered teaching profoundly influenced later educators. Inconsistencies in Losure’s take abound. Scenery and buildings merit detailed description, but historical and cultural context is lacking—the French Revolution isn’t mentioned. Readers are invited to judge “cold-eyed” scientists, especially Bonnaterre (“to him, the boy was only a specimen”) by contemporary standards. Itard’s harshest actions (knowing Victor’s fear of heights, Itard dangled him out a high window) escape editorializing. Text, syntax and vocabulary envision quite young readers, yet the eight pages of scholarly footnotes and academic bibliography are strictly for adults. Resources for children or teachers aren’t provided. Victor is known only through those who observed and studied him. Losure’s speculations on what he might have felt have a distancing effect and do not belong in a work of nonfiction.
An interesting account, but Victor remains as inscrutable as ever. (author's note) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)