Wild and Happy

I often read with my 6 year old neighbor Karishma, here at Bridge Meadows community.  Last week, she came over and urgently asked for the book Wild by Emily Hughes.  Her shoulders were scrunched up to her ears.  I quickly found the book.  She flipped to the back and read the last page out loud.  “You cannot tame something so happily wild.”
Her shoulders relaxed and she sighed.  She then read the whole book again.
It’s been her favorite book for about a month now.  Even though she doesn’t really want to eat raw salmon from a river or sleep in a tree, she identifies with wanting to be wild.
The day she so urgently needed to see the ending was her first back at school after a week off.  She’d had a cold, then impetigo.  She got a toothache which required a visit to the dentist.  Her first day back at school didn’t go well.  I didn’t get the details but I was happy that she sought relief in a book. 
Wild tells the story of a girl who has known nothing but nature since birth.
“No one remembered how she came to the woods, but all knew it was right. 
The whole forest took her as their own.”

This spread is from the book but scanned in on Emily Hughes’ site.  You get better detail than on the other pictures I’ve posted
In many ways, this is a Garden of Eden story.  And I think it touches on the same desires for a peaceable garden, something not so dog eat dog, evolve or die.  In Wild, bears teach the girl to eat, birds teach her to speak, foxes teach her to play.
The trouble comes when she’s discovered by humans and they try to help her.  It doesn’t go well.  
from Emily Hughes Site
The girl is powerful enough to know when enough is enough and gets her freedom back.  And she takes the dog and cat with her.  This element is important to every kid I’ve read this book to – they are as concerned about the dog and cat as they are the girl.
Wild represents an idyllic family, where everyone plays together and there are no confusing rules, or school, or bad days, or shoes.
For me, it was a nod to the wild child that I once was – the one who got in trouble for jumping on furniture, climbing trees, and spitting out food I didn’t like.  I was tamed, but I like to think there is something happily wild still inside me even in my fifties (aging has helped me shed a lot of the need to please, and makes me appreciate my inner wild.)
Hughes illustrations are detailed and loose at the same time.  This wild girl’s expressions bring her to life.  I’ve never see such an accurate illustration of a child who feels she is the victim of an injustice or stupidity.  
Hughes’ style is vivid and lyrical.  The scans and photos I‘ve posted here do the book no justice.  It’s a Flying Eye book and it’s done in their usual beautiful style with a great binding and colorful endpapers.
Emily Hughes lives in London, but is originally from Hilo, Hawaii.  She earned 2nd place for the Macmillan’s Prize for Children’s Picture Books in 2012.  She is a young author and I look forward to the work she creates in the future.  Flying Eye Books is bringing out her second book, The Little Gardener, in August.  I can’t wait!
In Wild, Hughes has created a powerful and determined girl.  The girls at my community center who I read it to just love that.  They study the book, the details of the art, and get dreamy eyed about being wild.  It’s a delight to see them imagine a joyous adventure that has nothing to do with being a princess. 
Karishma loves the girl’s hair and big eyes.  And she loved the ending even more than I imagined.  What a thrill it was that she came to me frustrated and wanted to see a book instead of play on the computer.  Playing computer games might have helped her escape from her problems, but reading Wildhelped her reimagine why it’s so hard to be schooled and civilized.  It reminded her that life is sweet and there’s a whole world of nature out there for her.
You can follow Emily Hughes’ blog by clicking here.
Thanks for reading my blog.  If you’d like, leave a comment.

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