The Wild Book
Engle, Margarita. The Wild Book. New York, NY: Harcourt Children’s Books. 2012
Many years ago in Cuba, a young farm girl, Fefa, struggles with dyslexia. After being diagnosed with “word-blindness”, she shares the feelings and obstacles she must overcome as she deals with her disability. The difficult Cuban times of kidnappers and bandits are evident in the events that take place, but her biggest worry is not being able to read the ransom notes. Her mother gives Fefa a book with blank pages in which she can begin to explore writing in her own way and at her own pace. Eventually her brother commits to helping her learn to read and write. Her journey from her feelings of inadequacy to feelings of courage is an adventure in itself.
Free verse is the style of poetry presented in The Wild Book. The free verse works well for telling Fefa’s story because it makes it easy to understand. This style of poetry allows for emotion and history to run together seamlessly.
Margarita Engle works hard to convey emotions through the words in the book. Several times she breaks up words into syllables, allowing you to feel Fefa’s struggles to read and write. Multiple times she writes about reading “OUTLOUD” and readers quickly get a sense of the constant frustrations that were experienced within the struggle of dyslexia. Along with the emotions of fear and discouragement, readers will also feel positive emotions as Fefa begins to develop strategies for reading and writing. When Fefa states she is “hungry for words,” readers will feel a deep depth of joy from the emotion that the words bring about.
The story as a whole that is presented through the verses is indicative of early twentieth-century Cuba. The reader gets the sense of the country’s history and is given just enough insight to want to peak their interest into seeking further information. It is also interesting to see the powerful role that poetry played in the lives of the Cuban people. Almost any reader can relate to struggling with something at some point, and Fefa’s journey will give hope and courage to readers to hold on to through tough times.
Awards & Reviews:
Newberry Honor Awards winning author
Pura Belpre awards winning author
“Readers will hear the stories -- and never forget them.” --Booklist
“A beautiful tale of perseverance.” --Kirkus Review
“A lyrical glimpse of early twentieth-century Cuba.”--Booklist
*Paint or draw a visual image created by a favorite poem in the book.
*Think about something you have struggled with. Use one of Engle’s poems as a model to write a free verse poem of your own experience.
*Seek out additional information on Cuban history.
*Decorate your own “Wild Book.”