HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Wild Life
Author: Cynthia DeFelice
Cover Illustrator: Blake Morrow
Publisher: Square Fish, Reprinted 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0374380014 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0374380015 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1250034076 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1250034078 Paperback
Website(s): http://www.mackids.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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DeFelice,Cynthia. Wild Life (Published in 2011 by Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York City, NY; republished in 2013 by Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10010). Twelve year old Erik Anders Carlson, who lives in New York State with his dad, an automobile mechanic, and mom, a nurse, is preparing for his first-ever hunting trip with his best friend Patrick Holt. Then he learns that his parents, who are both staff sergeants in the Army Reserves, are being deployed to Iraq. A few days later, Erik is shipped off to live with his grandparents Big Darrell and Oma, whom he barely knows, in Fortuna, North Dakota. When Erik rescues a dog that’s been stuck by a porcupine, Big Darrell says that the boy can’t keep him. But Erik has already named her Quill and can’t bear to give her up, so he decides to run away, taking the dog and a shotgun, certain that they can make it on their own out on the prairie.
Can Erik obtain sufficient food and water to survive? Will he get so lost that no one is able to find him? And what happens to Quill? Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice is a story of adventure and survival, in which Erik learns some important lessons about the challenges and satisfactions of living off the land, the power of family secrets, the accepting of change, and the pain of losing what one loves. In addition to some common euphemisms and childish slang (darn, heck. poop), the “h” word is used as a curse a couple of times. But, while Big Darrell turned away from God after their son, Erik’s Uncle Dan, was killed in Vietnam, Oma still goes to church and prays. Also, Kirkus Reviews noted “the deftly folded-in gun lessons and easy acceptance of the way of life they accompany.”
The biggest complaint which I saw was that “Erik (the main character) is rather selfish, and it’s not really a story about survival. Erik’s not really roughing it: he leaves for about 3 days, 2 of those days he eats Dorritoes, oreos, ham sandwiches, and mountain dew, and sleeps in a barn on a bale of hay. Although it says he’s 12, for half the book I thought he was 9. He definitely doesn’t act like he’s 12, because no twelve year old would be that irresponsible and over dramatic.” The point of the book isn’t to teach survival but to show just how unprepared and naïve Erik was. And as the father of two boys, I can assure everyone that 12-year-old boys can be that selfish and irresponsible.