BOOK REVIEWS

The Wild Book Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-07-14 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 31 user ratings
ISBN:0547581319
LANGUAGE:English

"Summary:
This is based on the stories that Margarita Engle’s grandmother told of her childhood. It is written in free verse form.
Fefa struggles in school because of reading and writing. The words do not seem to make sense to her. She says that they slip and jump away like frogs. The doctor says that she has word-blindness and will never be able to read or write. Fefa’s mother disagrees and gives Fefa a blank book to fill with her own words. Fefa begins writing in it nearly everyday. Through this, she begins to feel more confidence in her reading and writing. Outside of her reading and writing, there are other dangers about Fefa. Cuba is a lawless place where bandits are stealing children for ransom. Everyone is scared of the possible danger. When the family is threatened, they do not have enough money to pay for all of the ransoms, but Fefa’s book helps her solve the family’s troubles. She becomes the heroine, even with her struggles in reading and writing.
My thoughts:
This is a very touching novel. I happen to love novels written in verse, so I came into it biased. The voice of the young girl comes through perfectly. I can hear the struggles of developing words, sounding out syllables, and then the growing boldness of her choices. I root for her when she has to read things out loud, and feel bad when she describes frustrations and loneliness. This was a fairly predictable book, but it does not detract from the language and flow. It’s also such a quick read that I don’t know why someone would put it down or not pick it up to begin with. I’ve given it 5 stars because I really can’t think of a reason to not recommend this to my students. I think the advanced readers will enjoy it just as much as the struggling ones. Bravo Margarita Engle!
" said.

"FTC Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book from the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review.

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle

Summary: Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them? But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.

When I first read the description of this book I was eager to read it. Recently, my school has put into place to programs to help dyslexic students. I was hoping this would be a great resource for those students. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The story is about an 11 year old girl with "word blindness" who receives a book with white pages to write her thoughts as a way to work her way through the challenges of being dyslexic. A great idea, but it doesn't live up to it's potential.

I'm not sure who the target audience is. Is it students who face these challenges. Is it parents or educators who work with dyslexic students? Amazon recommends the book for ages 10 and up, but based on my experience with my students, I believe it would be not only a difficult read, but one that would not appeal to very many of them. Older students and adults will be more suited to appreciating the beautiful word play and verse format.

This is not a book, I will be purchasing for this for my school library.
" said.

" The Wild Book is a novel in verse by two-time Pura Belpré winner, Margarita Engle. This fictionalized account of her grandmother’s struggle with dyslexia takes readers to Cuba, 1912. While the book is fiction, it is inspired by the stories Engle heard from her grandmother. This story is rich with history, emotion, and determination.
Fefa, short for Josefa, is about 11 years old when she is diagnosed with “word-blindness” by the village doctor. He tells her mother that she will never be able to read or write, but Fefa’s mother doesn’t give up on her daughter’s education. Fefa’s mother loves sharing poetry with her family. She gives Fefa a blank book and tells her to think of it like a garden; she can plant the wildflower seeds of her words anywhere on any page.
Fefa’s writing and reading improve, but word-blindness is only one obstacle in her life. One of her brothers has an accident while hunting caiman. He can no longer be a farmer, so he decides to tutor Fefa as practice for his new profession: teaching. A middle-aged farmhand takes an interest in young Fefa. He writes her notes and says unwelcome things when no one else is listening. Fefa is very frightened of him, but tells no one. Then one day she finds a ransom note saying that if her father does not pay so much per child, notorious bandits will kidnap them. Her parents have so many children that they can’t afford to pay for all of them and her father refuses to choose which ones he will buy the safety of. But Fefa’s reading ability and close attention to detail save the day when she recognizes the handwriting.
This novel is a great way to include international and multicultural studies. The novel in verse format makes this a quick and accessible read. It is also well suited to be read aloud by a class or teacher. Fefa is often frightened that her teacher will call on her to read aloud, so this could lead to a class discussion about respecting others when reading out loud for the class.

Review can also be found on Booksource.com
" said.

"Fefa struggles with words. She has "word blindness", or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?

But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them. In this vibrant novel in verse, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a glowing portrait of her grandmother as a young girl.

-----------------------

Dyslexia -- Fiction.
Cuba -- History -- 1909-1933 -- Fiction.
First person narratives
Historical fiction .
Novels in verse
Lyrical.
Kidnapping
Pre-teen girl

Additional note: The Wild Book by Margarita Engle.

It is without doubt that Margarita Engle has composed a beautiful story, but the majority of readers will be unaware of the true genius that lies between the covers of this book. That is because most who will read this are not dyslexic.

It is without doubt that Margarita Engle has composed a beautiful story, but equally impressive is the thought that has been made in the construction of this book. As you may know, many people with dyslexia have difficulty with visual scanning and tracking the written word while reading. This makes reading challenging and at times stressful.

In creating her newest book, Margarita Engle has not only constructed a beautiful story, but she has placed great thought to several physical characteristics of the book itself. These details might seem odd to some, but for those with dyslexia, they make the process of reading more enjoyable. Everything from the physical size of the pages, the clear font, and the wide spacing between lines support the needs of all readers. Truly Brilliant!
" said.

"Told in poems, this is the story of Engle’s maternal grandmother and her struggle with dyslexia. Known as Fefa, her grandmother was diagnosed with “word blindness” and told she would never read or write. Luckily, Fefa’s mother has an idea. She gives her daughter a blank book to fill with words, as if she is scattering wildflower seeds on the ground. At first Fefa’s words are hesitant and stilted, like seedlings. But steadily her writing and reading improve as she learns to take her time and gains confidence. And that reading is what saves her and her siblings from being kidnapped in the chaos following Cuba’s fight for independence.

Engle writes a gripping series of poems that range from celebrating the written word to the difficulties of dyslexia to the triumph of overcoming. Over the entire book the threat of violence and kidnappings hangs low and dark. It is clear that this is not a modern story from the very beginning and Engle cleverly reveals the extent of the chaos the family is living in the midst of through Fefa herself and her own growing knowledge.

As always, Engle’s verse is exceptional. Often her individual poems could be read one their own. Yet it is as one complete story that they really show their beauty. There are many exceptional stanzas to share, but one of my favorites comes early in the novel:

Frog Fear

My little brothers love
to frighten me
by hiding lizards,
bugs, and spiders
in my bloomers.

Today it’s a frog,
but they tell me it’s a snake,
so I scream and tremble
until I can clearly see
that the little creature
jumps around
like jittery letters
on a blinding
page.

The skin of a frog
feels just as slippery
and tricky as a wild
inky word.

Engle traces the love of words and poetry Fefa’s own mother, who shares poems with her family. It’s a beautiful celebration of that history and those words.

This novel in verse is a powerful look at Cuba’s history and also at dyslexia and overcoming challenges. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
" said.

"Margartia Engle writes the most beautiful novels in verse. In The Wild Book she draws on her family history to tell the story of Fefa who is dyslexic. I think this alone makes the book worth having on the shelf for the one or two kids who struggle with dyslexia and need to see themselves and their struggles in the pages of a book. Fefa is bound and determined, but constantly discouraged by her lack of progress, and I think she could be a very relatable character. I can’t speak to how accurately the disability is presented, but Engle does appear to have drawn directly out of family stories about her so I suspect she is pretty close to accurate in depicting her great aunt.

The story beyond Fefa is interesting, but fairly quiet. Fefa is growing up in a small village with a large family. They are squabbles and mean sisters. One brother ends up injured in a pretty severe accident and becomes Fefa’s teacher. He isn’t particularly sensitive to Fefa’s difficulty reading, but he pushes her and eventually she comes to appreciate how he is helping her. There is some sense of danger in the book precipitated by historical events that might pique kids’ interest, but the tension is fairly low in the book itself. Kids who like quite books will enjoy this story.

I don’t see the kids picking these up off the shelf on their own too often (I like the cover, but I’m not sure it appeals to kids), but to me that means we need to do a better job of talking them up and drawing attention to them. I’ve said many times, novels in verse (and graphic novels) are good alternative formats that work well for reluctant readers. This one even more so because some of those reluctant readers may be struggling with a learning disability that makes reading difficult.

I think I put this on the summer reading list for fourth grade, but I can’t quite remember. I’m hoping some kids read it and it hooks them into the format and the author. We actually have two copies of the book in the library. I recommend it if you have kids who like this format and if you have reluctant readers you are looking at hooking. I also suggest it if you have students that like slice of life, realistic fiction. It’s fairly inexpensive so I think it would be well worth giving a try if for no other reason than to have more representation of learning disability on the shelves. If you hand sell it, it will get read.
" said.

" I LOVED this book! It belongs in every child's home and every teacher's library. Here's my detailed review: https://bookreviewsbykristie.wordpres... " said.

" This was a simple read, but several words would be difficult for younger children who have dyslexia. I loved the simple story woven through the book. " said.

October 2019 New Book:

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