Book Review of The Wild Book
The Children’s Book Review
What to Expect: Divorce, books, magic, coming of age
Juan wants nothing more than to spend his summer hanging out with his best friend, enjoying several school-free weeks. However, when his father leaves, his mother sends him and his sister Carmen away for the summer while she tries to pull the pieces of their lives back together. Carmen gets sent to live with her best friend, but Juan has no such luck; he’s sent to live with Cousin Tito – an oddball who drinks endless cups of tea and lives surrounded by cats and books.
To Juan’s surprise, it’s not all that bad – not only does he discover he enjoys both books and tea, but there’s also Tito’s intriguing pronouncement that the books are alive, and that Juan may have the power to control them. Even better, when he feels the need to escape the books, there’s always the pharmacy across the road, where Catalina and her very pretty eyes are waiting for him. Torn between his desire to look after his mother and the ever-increasing lure of the library, Juan spends his summer on the most elusive quest of all—the journey to find out who he is meant to be.
Translated from Spanish in 2017, The Wild Book has all the earmarks of great Hispanic magic realist fiction. Vivid, one-of-a-kind characters jostle for space with just-about-believable enchantments and all-too-real family and personal problems. Juan is a likable character, and readers will empathize with his family worries, his fascination with the magic he discovers, and his fumbling attempts at a first relationship. The story is enticing, with mysterious books, a house filled with secret chambers, hidden passages, moving rooms, and some fascinating explorations of knowledge.
The Wild Book is a sure winner for readers who love books, magic, and adventure.
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About the Author
Juan Villoro is Mexico’s most prolific, prize-winning author, playwright, journalist, and screenwriter. His books have been translated into multiple languages. Several of his books have appeared in English, including his celebrated 2016 essay collection on soccer brought out by Restless Books, God Is Round. Villoro lives in Mexico City and is a visiting lecturer at Yale and Princeton universities.
About the Translator
Lawrence Schimel (New York, 1971) is a full-time author, writing in both Spanish and English, who has published over one hundred books in a wide range of genres. He is also a prolific literary translator. His picture books have been selected for the White Ravens from the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. They have twice been chosen for IBBY’s Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, among many other awards, honors, and Distinctions.
His work has been published in Basque, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Turkish, and Ukrainian translations. He started the Spain chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators and served as its Regional Advisor for five years. He also coordinated the International SCBWI Conference in Madrid and the first two SCBWI-Bologna Book Fair conferences. He lives in Madrid, Spain, and New York City.
Dr. Jen Harrison reviewed The Wild Book by Juan Villoro. Discover more books like The Wild Book by reading our reviews and articles tagged with Books About Books, Coming of Age, Divorce, Hispanic Heritage, Magic-Realism, and Middle Grade Books.