Reviewed by Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Associate Professor, University of Alabama, School of Library and Information Studies, Tuscaloosa, AL.
Written as a tribute to the remarkable life of her abuela, Engle’s novel in verse follows the various exploits and episodic events of eleven-year-old Fefa and her large family who live in the Cuban countryside in the early twentieth century. While the story includes glimpses into the political climate during this time period, the main focus is Fefa’s struggle with “word blindness” or dyslexia. To help her daughter beat this blindness and her fear of reading and writing, Fefa’s clever mother gives her a blank book where she can sprinkle words and thoughts and watch them grow. Using vivid imagery and sparse prose, Engle successfully conveys Fefa’s confusion with words and throws in a subplot of kidnapping bandits to spice up the action. An author’s note describing the real Fefa provides additional historical context. With so few books depicting Latinos with learning impairments, this book is a sound addition to all library collections. Recommended.
The Wild Book. Margarita Engle. New York: Harcourt Children's Books, 2012. 133 pp. $16.99 (Hardcover). ISBN: 978-0-547-581316. Grades 4-7. English with some Spanish.