Monday, April 02, 2012

The Wild Book

The Wild Book. Margarita Engle. 2012. Harcourt. 144 pages.

I really do love Margarita Engle's verse novels set in Cuba. They almost always impress me. I love her poetry. I love the emotion behind the poems. The way she tells a story. The Wild Book is no exception. Set in Cuba in the early twentieth century, the heroine is based on Engle's grandmother. (I believe the novel is set around 1912?)

Josefa, or "Fefa", is our eleven year old, word-blind heroine. Her inability to read isn't from lack of focus or desire. More than anything, Fefa wants to be able to read and write. She's dyslexic at a time when no one really understood what that meant. Her mother gives her a present, a blank book, and tells her to practice, to take things slow, slow, slow. To keep trying. To not give up. And that is just what our heroine does. She writes--as slowly and carefully as she can--about her life. And it's an interesting time to be sure....since Cuba has won its independence from Spain and is being occupied by the United States...a time with many dangers and risks.


I memorize all the little
guess-me riddles
in my schoolbook:

A bird has a little white
treasure chest
that everyone knows
how to open
but no one can close.
An egg!

Why does an unlucky shrimp
swim backwards?
To return to a time 
before he lost his luck!

I dream up new riddles
and write them all down
in my wild book.

My slow handwriting
with its careful swirls
and loops
has almost grown 

Am I patient?
What has changed?

When I write riddles,
the pen in my hand
feels mysterious.

I feel as powerful
as a girl in a fairy tale,
a brave girl who climbs
dangerous towers
and sips water
from magic wells.

Is this how it feels
to be smart? (46-47)

Read The Wild Book
  • If you're a fan of Margarita Engle
  • If you're a fan of verse novels
  • If you're looking for historical fiction set in Cuba
  • If you're looking for books with dyslexic characters

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Suko 10:43 PM  

This sounds lovely and the cover is magical!

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