such a fan of margarita engle‘s the firefly letters, i absolutely loved engle’s (2012) the wild book, a book in verse that explores fefa’s dyslexia and struggles with writing. sharing cuban culture and exploring the tribulations fefa’s family faces in cuba circa 1900, engle’s book is one that shares, through a mother’s love of literature and faith in her daughter, the power of literacy. writers who struggle can place themselves in fefa’s situation: “i wish i knew how / to become word-strong / and word-brave” (p. 27). they can feel her fear on being asked to read out loud; they want to step in and stop her brothers from bullying her. i would think that sharing this text with students or children who struggle in writing and reading would be quite powerful. because of the short, chapters in verse, the wild book is an excellent read-aloud text – for the reading circle or the bedtime read. those interested in disability studies may discuss how fefa overcomes her dyslexia, or “word-blindness” as the doctor calls is. reading groups and literature groups can discuss the effect of engle’s decision to compose in verse and how this changes the story she shares with readers. also unique – and i believe central to engle’s purpose in the text – is the first-person narrative. how might the story differ from, say, fefa’s mom? one of my favorite lines from engle’s book comes right after fefa’s mom gives her a book: “think of this little book / as a garden” (p. 5). ultimately, the wild book’s fefa should be held up as a young writer who comes to realize the power of her words.
The Wild Book by Margarita Engle