Saturday, May 18, 2013
Wild Boy, written by Mary Losure and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2013. $19.00 ages 10 and up
I didn't read The Fairy Ring: Or How Elsie and Frances Fool the World
(Candlewick, 2012); everything I read about it made me think it should be on my TBR pile. So, when I first heard about Mary Losure's new book, I was keen to have a look.
It is an absorbing story and it's true! It's about the boy found in the woods in the south of France in 1789. He was a young boy who had been living on his own; no one knew for how long or anything about him. He was covered with scars, he did not speak, he constantly ran away from any kind of restraint. He was captured in hopes of studying him. He was unable to communicate in any way in the beginning. As days went by, it became clear that he was not happy.
It wasn't until he was transferred to an institute for 'deaf-mutes' that much changed for him. There he met Dr. Itard, who wanted him to be happy before he tried to teach him to communicate. He gave the boy a name, Victor. Within Dr. Itard's household, Victor became close to the housekeeper and her family. Teaching him to speak and to live what we might consider a more normal life was not an easy task, nor did it ever fully work.
Mary Losure gives her young audience a clear look at the boy, and the attempts that were made to understand where he came from and to help him assimilate to the world in which he now found himself. The writing is beautiful and clear, and empathetic to his plight. It is a complicated story to tell. Yet, she creates a character who will resonate with them; they are sure to understand his love of nature and of being independent and free outside the constraints of clothing, walls, and other people.
Ms. Losure's book is the best kind of historical fiction, allowing readers to know about a particular time in history. Her research allows us to hear the voices of people living at the time, and to know as much of Victor's story as she can write. In the Author's Note she considers the fact that he may have been autistic. She also lets readers know that the attempts to educate him have had an impact on educational history.
Timothy Basil Ering's haunting, monochromatic artwork assures that readers have a clear picture of the 'wild' boy, post-Revolutionary France, his surroundings, and those who tried to change his life.