Growing up with a Wild Book

courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Coy

Fefa is dyslexic. Reading makes her feel dizzy. She has never been a great fan of words, the letters get mixed up and make her feel anxious. The doctor has diagnosed ‘word blindness’.

    “Some children can see everything except words.

    They are only blind on paper” he says.

Fefa’s mother refuses to accept his verdict.

    “Seeds of learning grow slowly” she assures me.

She presents her daughter with a book and encourages her:

    “Think of this little book as a garden, throw wild flower seeds all over each page, let the words sprout like seedlings and then relax and watch as your wild diary grows.”

Fefa opens the book hesitantly, finds the pages blank within but wide open to her imagination, a place where she can write unobserved, in any way she wishes.

Soon Fefa is nurturing the slow transforming pages of her wild book as she would a precious flower garden, turning those awkward spiky, complex letters into words of beauty and importance.

Margarita Engle’s delightful ‘The Wild Book’ is a tribute in verse inspired by stories told to her by her maternal grandmother, a young girl growing up in rural Cuba, struggling with dyslexia. It will be enjoyed by readers of all ages, both those who struggle with and those who adore words and of course, lovers of the blank page journal everywhere.  It is a book to read and reread, silently and out loud.

“No one in my family ever throws anything away, not even an old story that can be told and retold late at night, to make the deep darkness feel a little less lonely.”

It is a magical story of a little girl coping with school, homework, older brothers, being left behind as the others go off to boarding school, of facing family threats and danger; all part of daily life on the farm and in the village, aided by a loving mother and uncle who love to recite poetry.

    “After my mother

    finishes her seascape,

    my uncle recites

    a long poem about the sky,

    where sun spirits

        ride glowing chariots,

    and there is someone

    who knows how to fly

    towards the truth

    of dreams…

        I don’t understand

    the whole thrilling verse but I love the way poetry

    turns ordinary words into winged things

    that rise up

    and soar!”

Now couldn’t we all do with a wild book…

Note: This book was an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), provided by the publisher via NetGalley.