Many children are faced with adversity during the various stages of their studies and growth. In Margarita Engle’s The Wild Book, the main character, Fefa, demonstrates not only how internal and external forces cause children to struggle in their development, but how creativity and imagination can help overcome adversity.
First off, the style of this book sets it apart for students. It is written as prose. It is a quick, easy read for students grades 4-8 as Engle utilizes language that is not only imaginative but engaging. Another thing to be said about the language in this text is that it captures every day emotions children and teens feel as they face hardships. In Fefa’s case, she has “word sickness,” or dyslexia. Her doctor believes that she will never be able to read or write; however, her mother firmly dismisses this prognosis, but argues her words must flow differently and freely. Thus, she gives Fefa a blank book that comes to be known as Fefa’s garden, or her wild book. This is a place where she can cultivate her words and ideas when she is ready.
Engle explores and elucidates on the idea that Fefa is different from the other children because she does not process her words the same. At the same time, she also encourages readers to embrace the idea that it is certainly normal for people to be different. In fact, if anything, Engle encourages the audience to understand its differences and use them to its advantage. By the end of The Wild Book, Fefa’s words flow freely and clearly in her book. Essentially, her garden of words has flourished.
While overcoming challenges is definitely one of the main themes of The Wild Book, this book is written as a work of historical fiction. Fefa is a young girl growing up in rural Cuba in the early twentieth century. The Second War for Cuban Independence has recently ended; however, racial turmoil in the countryside threatens peace, especially as bandits roam the countryside looking for illicit ways to make money (in this case, kidnapping). Although Engle allows the audience to embrace differences in the classroom, she also encourages the audience to engage with the world which creates our actions and reactions.
Engle and her style are not strangers to us here at Vamos a Leer. She tends to write about subjects that pertain to Cuba as well as those that embrace and engage how history (especially that of our elders and ancestors) is still relevant today for young people. For more about her, please refer to our entry on Engle (here). I encourage you all to take a look at this book that embraces history and hopes to help young people grow in spite of preconceived notions of difference.
Until next time,