Returning home from a family camping trip, Olive, 8, discovers a stowaway: Forest, the wild boy she met living in the woods. Now she’s got just 24 hours to civilize him sufficiently to satisfy Gam Gam, her grandmother.
Forest, about Olive’s age, wears ragged, muddy clothes. He’s learned his Tarzan-like human speech from campers but also speaks to squirrels, birds, and the family dog, Bailey. Olive’s dad is willing to take Forest in, but her older brother, Ryan, 10, objects, especially after Forest sprays him with the garden hose, breaks the TV trying to rescue the opossums onscreen, and destroys the family’s dinner. If he’s to stay, Forest must pass muster with Gam Gam, a stickler for etiquette, when she arrives tomorrow for her birthday dinner (why her approval’s required is unclear). Seeking to subvert Olive’s plans, Ryan encourages Forest to further acts of mayhem and dresses him in a towel cape but no shirt for the dinner. Only ragged clothes and messy hair distinguish Forest from Olive and her white family, their features appearing identical, even clonelike in the cartoonish art. Olive’s absent mom and Forest’s origins go unexplored, which allows the wild-child premise to be played strictly for laughs but leaves an unsavory residue of subtext, suggesting poverty, homelessness, and family disruption. Perhaps more will be explained in Book 2.
Neither realism nor fantasy, this dismal series opener is marred by clichéd characters and a plot evidently unaware of its darker implications. (Fiction. 5-7)