Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Losure’s latest is another compelling true story this time focusing on the boy found in the woods in southern France in 1789. The boy was not a tiny child, but rather a young boy who had obviously been surviving on his own for some time, his body covered in scars. Quickly, the boy was taken for study and observation, his life curtailed and limited because he always attempted to run away. There was very little attempt to actually reach him until he was sent to the Institute for Deaf-Mutes where he was put into the care of Dr. Itard. Itard decided to make the boy, who he named Victor, happy before trying to teach him to speak. So Victor joined the family of the housekeeper and quickly became attached to them. But civilizing a wild boy is not simple, as this book shows with historical details, engaging humor, and a narrative that shows an immense empathy for this wild child.
Losure, author of The Fairy Ring, has once again taken a complicated situation and made it understandable for young readers. Young readers will immediately relate more closely with the intriguing Victor. Through his eyes and Losure’s exquisite writing, readers understand his ties to nature (Page 72):
But when rain pattered on the roof and everyone else went inside, the wild boy often crept out into the garden, to the tiny, formal reflecting pond that sat among the flower beds. He would circle the pond several times, then sit by its edge and rock himself back and forth as the rain dimpled the surface of the pond. He’d gaze into the water, toss in a handful of dead leaves, and watch them drift.
The digital galley I read did not have the completed art available, so I cannot comment on the illustrations. Throughout the book, Losure makes the Wild Boy come to life as a very unique and resilient boy. The story is told during his time, through the eyes of those who knew him best, using reports written at the time. Only in her Author’s Note does Losure speculate on whether Victor was autistic. There she also notes the importance of Victor on educational attitudes like Montessori.
An engaging, wrenching read that brings history to life in the form on one amazing person. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Candlewick Press.