Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: The Wild Book

The Wild Book
By Margarita Engle
Expected publication March 20, 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books

Fefa has what the doctors call "word-blindness" - the words on a page just won't stay still for her. She is told she will never read or write. But Fefa's mother believes she can overcome, so she presents Fefa with a blank notebook and encourages her to fill it with a garden of words, sprinkling them wherever she sees fit. But when disaster strikes her family, it may be Fefa who holds the key to redemption.

This is a very short and quick read but I really enjoyed it. It's written in verse (Engle is a poet and has written a number of other novels in verse, including The Surrender Tree) and tells a very simple story of a young Cuban girl struggling with what it today known as dyslexia. We find out about Fefa's family slowly, as at first, their names are too difficult for her to write, and I think this slow unveiling works well. It gives readers more time to get to know Fefa herself. I love that Fefa's mother encourages her to challenge the doctors who say she'll never read or write - they even give her an album for her Saint's Day in which admirers are to write poems. Fefa is embarrassed when the only poem she receives comes from a farmhand, but this may be an important clue later on. I like the subtle weaving of Cuban history into the background of Fefa's story. I think kids will be able to relate to Fefa's struggle, even though her circumstances may be radically different than their own. A well-done novel.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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