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Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children
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Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Wild or feral children have fascinated us down the centuries, and continue to do so today. In a haunting and hugely readable study, Michael Newton deftly investigates a number of infamous cases. He looks at Peter the Wild Boy, who gripped the attention of Swift and Defoe, and at Victor of Aveyron who roamed the forests of revolutionary France. He tells the story of a savag ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Picador (first published 2002)
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can anyone believe i finally finished this book?? i dont recommend it and im not even sure why. its just not very interesting, although it picks up a little at the end. how someone can mess up with this kind of source material is beyond me. his writing just made me want to keep drifting off....but its over now and i can read my fascinating cataloging book...
Can I give this zero stars and have it still be a rating? Please, anyone? Does that work?

What. The. Crap.
Without my knowing, somehow I've become almost optimistic about the world. So this jerk's ranting on how weird these children were actually shocked me. It irritated me to no end. I expect too much of writers, I think... A habit I shall have to quickly burn out of myself.

And guess what? I got so fed up that I stopped part of the way through.

Firstly, he wouldn't shut up about his precious opini
This book is ostensibly about feral children throughout the ages. In reality, Newton is so enthralled with the philosophical and psychological possibilities of the *idea* of humans raised outside of society that he only talks about four children. Even when he is supposedly telling these disenfranchised children's tales, he spends most of his pages on disecting the writers who wrote about them. Seriously, there are entire chapters about Swift and Defoe's family and life--and only a few pages on a ...more
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this book. After briefly skimming the jacket summary, I found out that it was about "savage" children, children that had grown up in the wilderness by animals or were cut off completely from the world, barely human, just becoming accustomed to the "civilized" world. Each chapter was dedicated to a wild child, ranging from as far back as the 1700's (Peter the Wild Boy) to as recent as the 1990's (Ivan Mishukov).

The beginning was about the author and how h
How he managed to make such a interesting subject so boring, I have no idea.
The title and synopsis of this book is a bit misleading. Rather than a history of feral or 'wild' children, Savage Girls and Wild Boys is a history of those who come to sponsor some of these abandoned and abused children. I found more information about the actual children on the internet, but Newton does provide some interesting back story about the people who attempted to 'save' these children, and some good intellectual history, though lacking the kind of depth the subject needs. Some really h ...more
Christina Manzo
Combining aspects of the historical, the analytical and the philosophical, Newton's history neither condemns the idea of the "uncivilized savage" nor lauds the noble one. Instead, he explores not only the stories of six children struggling to grasp at what some would call "humanity" and others would call "civilization", but also what these children represented to the societies in which they lived.

In doing so, Newton frames this narrative in order to ask important questions such as 'what is huma
This book read more like a doctoral study....a little too in-depth for my tastes.
Amy Turner
I just skimmed a lot of this. The author is more interested in peoples reactions to the idea of kids "raised by wolves" etc. than in the kids themselves. Part of the problem is that there is not a lot of evidence, especially in the historical cases. The last chapter was the most interesting, because I felt I got to know the child better, but she wasn't really a wild child, but a victim of abuse, being locked up for years.
A fascinating read and well-researched accounts of "feral children." Instead of solely asking "What makes us human?," the book also prompts us to ask why we mythologize these children, what draws us to their stories, and what is implied or possibly lacking in our society and communities to do so (especially considering the examples of imposters pretending to be "wild children").

I thought the book would have more information on the actual children, like a series of case studies. However, a lot of the book was devoted to the hisorical context of the children and the personalities of the people who found/studied the children. I found myself skimming the philosophy and history parts of the book, looking for actual facts on the children themselves.
Barbara Lockhart
I was disappointed that there was so little information about the actual feral children and so much about those in their lives. Very interesting subject matter. Very boring book.
Daniel Watts
This is a very frustrating, if on occasion rewarding, book. It was frustrating for me in that (and judging from the other reviews here I’m not unique in my frustration) it regularly goes off topic, often does not properly discuss the topic on hand and when it does, tends to look at it too much for my taste from the perspective of literary history as opposed to contemporary science (perhaps unsurprising given that the author is a professor of English). Yet it remains full of fascinating informati ...more
This started ok but as it went on it didn't seem to be much about wild children, more about the people who researched them! Boring
Basically, I will love any book about feral children and this is no exception. Fascinating.
I'm really excited about starting this. Thanks Omi!!! To bad that I left it in Micaela's car.... :(
Jan 04, 2008 Wifey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone raised by wolves,
Shelves: favorite, historyish
Great read, lots of information, photos and not too academic. Thought provoking.
This was a key source for my research paper.
I only used parts of it in the paper, but read much more...
They're interesting tales and stories of some exaggerated history. I really got sucked in.

I did a paper/presentation on feral children in my Childhood Psychology class....received a 100% with high praise and esteem from one of my favorite instructors....

I don't think anybody reads these things anyhow....
So what- if I toot my little horn a bit. I worked my ASS off on that paper and presentation
Bianca Beyrouti
While not a masterpiece, this is mostly an engaging read for those interested in human development. This book's greatest strength is the spotlight it shines on our prevailing cultural fascination with feral children. Newton hypothesizes that the cases of these children, ranging from Kaspar Hauser to Genie, reveal more about us as a society than the children themselves. According to him, the 'wildness' of these children calls into question our deeply held notions of what it means to be human vers ...more
Max Carmichael
The title is misleading...this book primarily consists of the author's ruminations on the cultural abstraction "wild child" and its implications for society, and only secondarily a history. The author is more interested in the people associated with these children, and in their cultural ramifications, than in the children themselves.

In the author's view there are no important differences between children who have been isolated, imprisoned and abused, and children who have grown up outdoors in th
A very thoughtful and engrossing history, discussing 'feral children,' and the nature of being human. What makes us human? Language? Society? The book takes cases ranging from the distant past to the modern age.

As I was reading I was often reminded of extremely current news events as well as other modern stories, including of course, the novel Room by Donoghue. Newton's study brings up many very interesting questions, both about the extraordinary children and their caretakers and champions.

The s
Michael Newton's Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children was not all I had hoped it would be, which is actually quite fitting. Newton does his level best to tell the stories of children discovered living, either wild in nature, or isolated away from both human society and the natural world. In the process, he gives account after account of disappointments, failures and setbacks among those who attempted to "rescue" and rehabilitate these children. It makes sense, given the constr ...more
I think I had too much anticipation for this book. Ever since viewing, late at night in a Dublin hotel, a History Channel documentary on feral children, I have been very curious about this subject. And while this is the first non-fiction book that I have read on the topic, I must admit that I was disappointed at how little new information was presented within its pages. The book more or less covered exactly what was in that documentary and a similar one presented on TLC, plus a rented one that I ...more
Naomi Klein
Interesting subject given an academic treatment. Rather dense at times. Newton is not a journalist nor a natural storyteller. Some passages seem irrelevant. I would have liked more details on the children themselves rather than the carers/philosophers around them.
Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children by Michael Newton (Thomas Dunne Books 2002) (155.4567). Wow! How intriguing! There actually are feral children alive today. This book looks back through history and identifies a few of the most important or notorious feral children (some of which are fictional): Mowgli from The Jungle Book, Tarzan as created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Romulus and Remus, and a girl found in Los Angeles in the 1970's named Genie. The story about Genie is absolu ...more
Lana Gerber
Read over half but didn't finish due to the same feelings expressed several times by others. For a potentially fascinating subject, this book is just downright dull.
Equal parts recapitulation & meditation on the existence of feral children.... I enjoyed and would recommend it both for its substance and style, but was was hoping for something more sordid (?). Newton's narrative sometimes gets bogged down his desire to make these stories mean something. Yes, such theorizing makes for a more intellectually stimulating book and yes, there are other more casually-written works on the subject, but too often I felt that the author raised questions without firm ...more
Erik Kershner
I think the negative reviews here reflect readers looking for "crazy stories" instead of a look into the our response to such stories. At first I found the added analysis to be tedious like many others have, but grew to appreciate it in the end.
This book was really primarily about the people who shaped the public perception of these children, rather than the children themselves. The focus is on the "big" questions that scientists, royalty, and the media projected onto the stories they could glean about them--like what makes a human? what is it to be civilized? what is the nature of language? Although these questions are fascinating in themselves, the children seem once again neglected for the story of the people surrounding them.
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Michael Newton has taught at University College London, Princeton University, and Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design, and now works at Leiden University. He is the author of Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children, Age of Assassins: A History of Conspiracy and Political Violence, 1865-1981, and a book on Kind Hearts and Coronets for the BFI Film Classics series. He ha ...more
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