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The Wild Book

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  602 ratings  ·  134 reviews
Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she say ...more
Hardcover, 130 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  602 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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Review of an advance copy:

This book, featuring Margarita Engle's lovely free-verse, is based on the life of Ms. Engle's grandmother. 11-year-old Fefa (Josefa) has dyslexia. The local doctor calls it "word blindness" and suggests that Fefa will never be able to read or write. Fortunately, Mamá has faith in her daughter and insists on patience and perseverance. And, despite the teasing from her siblings and the doctor's harsh verdict, Fefa also has an indomitable spirit. Her persistence begins to
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book is about the author's grandmother who grew up in Cuba in 1912. She has dyslexia and tries to get her words out with poems and uses this to tell her story. I really like the idea of this book and the subject matter but to be honest I got kind of bored about half way through and lost interest. Finally I got tired of seeing it on my shelf so I decided to finish it. Not sure who I would recommend it too? It was okay, I'd give it 2 1/2 stars if we could give 1/2 stars. ...more
Cindy Dobrez
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, fiction
I love Engle's verse novels of Cuban history and this one is based on her grandmother's experience growing up with "word blindness" or dyslexia as we know it today. A blank book, a gift from her mother, helps the girl have a place to explore language. A wild book. My sixth grade girls keep raving about this at our book club so I had to get to it. They are right. It is lovely. ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The doctor's tired voice
no longer sounds like a hiss.

Perhaps my way of hearing
has somehow

Fefa is diagnosed with word blindness (dyslexia) and the doctor says she will never read or write. In a family and community that composes poems as gifts and celebrates holidays with poetry contests, that disconnect is catastrophic. But Fefa's mother gives her a book of blank pages, where the words can grow wild, and slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, the words began to come together.'

Based on the true story of
Funnily enough, I struggle with reading verse-novels, but it didn't take long for me to be drawn into Fefa's story. The setting is beautifully shared and learning more about the characters as Fefa's strength and confidence in her own writing grew was great. ...more
Jennifer Mangler
I love Margarita Engle's books. They're so thoughtful and beautiful and vivid. I can see the world through her words. Fefa is someone that you will instantly care about. Fefa struggles to read. Luckily, she has people who won't give up on her. Through them she learns patience and begins to have faith in herself. This is a beautiful story about family and the power of stories. ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book, written in verse, talking about the struggle a young girl with dyslexia faces with words each day. Each page is another entry in her book that shows the progression of her struggle. I am excited to share this book with my middle school readers to give them a unique perspective on dyslexia set in the backdrop of Cuba.
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: digital-texts, poetry
The Wild Book is based on the life of the author's grandmother, Josefa de la Caridad Uria Pena. The book is told in verse about the struggles and hardships Margarita Engle's grandmother went through while growing up. The Wild Book introduces a girl named Fefa who struggles with "word blindness", which we call today as dyslexia. Fefa was diagnosed with “word blindness” and was told that she would never read or write because it was such a hardship for her and she was not obtaining it right away li ...more
Fefa cannot read because she suffers from "word-blindness" or dyslexia. Her mother gives her a blank book to write her own words. Scrawling her wild words into the book gives Fefa growing confidence and provides her insight that saves her family at a crucial moment.

Based on Engle's grandmother's childhood experiences growing up during the chaos after Cuba's fight for independence from Spain.

This novel in verse contains so many wonderful images. One of my favorites:


No one in my family
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think this is such a cool book for many reasons:

The main character, Fefa, struggles with dyslexia (the book uses the term from the time, word-blindness) and is also a hero. The book offers an interesting glimpse into how people lived with dyslexia in times where there was less understanding of the disability and fewer resources available.

The book takes place in 1912, during Cuba's first years of independence from Spain. It depicts some of the chaos and lawlessness of the time. I don't know muc
Lisa Muller
Another ostensibly upper grade/middle school novel that is so inspiring and so beautifully written that it has appeal and value for all ages. A few quotes from the book:

"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."

to the natural poem-songs
whistled and whooshed
by water, birds, wind,

Need I say more? As a child, the poet's grandmother was diagnosed with "word blindness." Schoo

After my mother finishes her seascape,
one of my uncles recites
a long poem about the sky,
where sun spirits
ride glowing chariots,
and there is someone
who knows how to fly
toward 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!

The parrot on the roof
wails and shrieks, copying
Mamá's desperate prayers
as she begs for a miracle
of healing.

Lee Miller
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This little book is in my favorite form: the novel in verse. Short and sweet. Sparse phrasing enlivens a lush atmosphere rife with challenges and small victories.

It has sat quietly in its place on a library shelf for the last eight years awaiting an eager reader, but sadly I am the only one to visit. In the length of that sitting, so many readers have passed it by in favor of something larger, more colorful or more exciting. As I contemplate the month of dyslexia awareness seeking to develop so
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at f ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a beautifully written free verse novel, and I felt like I had a better grasp on the struggle people with dyslexia have after I read it. I also learned about the situation in Cuba in the early 1900s, which I was completely unaware of before. I gave it four stars instead of five because I don't know that the format and lyricism will be as appealing to the young age of the readers it is geared toward as it is for me as an adult. ...more
Adela Bezemer-Cleverley
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a sweet book. The writing is not particularly brilliant or beautiful, but the story is interesting and told well, a fascinating glimpse of childhood in Cuba in somewhat recent history. Plus the story would be great for children with dyslexia because the main character is dyslexic and the story is written as if she is writing it, in short, simple verses that are less daunting than traditionally narrative formats for anyone who has trouble reading.
3 stars

I honestly don’t have very many thoughts on this book. It was okay, but I didn’t really feel anything while I was reading it. I thought the message was nice and I loved reading a middle grade historical fiction set outside of the US. I think younger readers will definitely enjoy this one more, but I can definitely see the merit of it because I think the story is really valuable, but the execution wasn’t for me.
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The selection is astounding in the presentation of poetic form and expresses the experiences of those living with a disability. This complex fictionally historical story is an appropriate addition to the intermediate child literacy curriculum. The poetry book elicits empathy from the audience and connections to historical time periods contributing to an audiobook extended class lesson learning
experience with reflection.
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read for: quick juve fiction, girlhood, life in Cuba, word-blindness/dyslexia, prose

Really sweet and lovely, but not super substantial. I wanted more poetry, and the plot point at the end felt thrown in. I think it just needed a bit more work. Still, you don't get to read much regarding Cuba. I just found this author but I'm really looking forward to what she is doing.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Disappointed dyslexic here.

So often I am disappointed with how dyslexia is portrayed in books...only really focusing on the mixing of letters which is only a tiny bit of what it is like to be dyslexic. Unfortunately this book disappoints like all the rest.

I shall continue my journey to find a book that goes deeper and is more realistic than this... here is to hoping.
Joy Kirr
1912 - From Trinidad, Cuba, Fefa struggles with words. Through this beautiful quick book, she begins to see beauty and patterns as she heads into her 12th year. I'm so glad a student turned me on to this author. ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of novels-in-verse
The Wild Book really impressed me--great poetic form, great main character, great look into another culture, great look into the challenges of dyslexia. (I don't have dyslexia, but my brother does.) Beautiful! ...more
Dec 08, 2019 added it
Shelves: for-the-kiddos
A poetic novel loosely based on the author's grandmother's life. Very cool! She was born in 1901, grew up in Cuba, and had dyslexia. An interesting story, a very fast read, and a slice of history I hadn't really read about. ...more
Ms. Arca
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved the cover (snatched it up in the library just because of it!) and the concept behind the book as well (dyslexia, grandmas story, Cuban characters..).

I thought the execution was just okay.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Third grade and up- could even read isolated verses
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Beautiful cover. Beautiful story.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, poetry
A charming poem-cycle about a young girl in turn of the century Cuba with dyslexia who learns to love words.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! It belongs in every child's home and every teacher's library. Here's my detailed review: https://bookreviewsbykristie.wordpres... ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Book #105 of 2018 📖
This book was cute and it had a powerful message. I love how it was written in verse.
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Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.

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