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Review of Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron
by Mary Losure; illus. by Timothy Basil Ering
Intermediate, Middle School     Candlewick     170 pp.
3/13     978-0-7636-5669-0     $16.99
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-6369-8     $16.99

The early-nineteenth-century feral child who inspired Truffaut’s L’Enfant Sauvage as well as Mordicai Gerstein’s YA novel Victor and picture book The Wild Boy (both rev. 11/98) here gets a scrupulously nonfictional account of what is known about his life. The boy was captured in January 1800 in southern France when he was around eleven or twelve. Later brought to Paris and to the attention of doctors and the French government, Victor (so named by one of his few sympathetic guardians, Dr. Itard) eventually learned some “civilized” behaviors, but never learned to speak. Losure documents all the known facts about the boy, from his favorite foods to his bout with smallpox to his fear of heights to his attachment to Dr. Itard’s housekeeper, Madame Guerin. Losure is deeply sympathetic toward her subject, but her admirable refusal to fictionalize means that the text frequently turns toward conjecture (“Maybe, sometimes, [Victor] dreamed about a burning stick”), making the book feel somewhat padded (“When he came to the river Seine, perhaps he stopped to look at brightly painted laundry boats”). But the gentle and intimate tone makes Victor’s alienation  heartbreaking, as do the simple but eloquent black-and-white sketches, one per each short chapter. An author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are included.

From the July/August 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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