Wild Girl

By Patricia Reilly Giff; Wendy Lamb Books; 2009; pp 145.

Plot: Young Lidie’s mother dies when Lidie is a mere 7 years old. The young Brazilian girl lives with her aunt and uncle while her father and older brother leave her behind for the U.S. and work at an upstate New York racetrack. When they save enough money, Lydia joins them five years later. Lydia must overcome a language barrier, a new school, and her father and brother, who treat her as if she is still 7. However, Lydia (or “wild child” as her mother fondly called her) can ride. Naturally, she befriends Wild Girl, a troubled and spirited filly. Slowly, Lydia and Wild Girl become comfortable with each other and themselves. The chapters alternate between Lydie’s first-person narrative and third-person accounts of Wild Girl’s perspective and history. Two-time Newbery Honor-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff presents a tale about belonging, family, and coming of age in the guise of a girl-meets-horse tale.

Reading Level: Ages 10 to 12

Review: Girl. Horse. Girl’s mother dies when she is 7. Girl is separated for five years from her father and brother when they leave Brazil for America and jobs at a horse racetrack. This book has all the ingredients of a typical girl-horse tale, but the author mixes these together to create something stronger than the sum of its parts. Wild Girl shines a rare light on the immigrant experience and, thus, will appeal to a wider audience as a consequence. The young Brazilian girl must overcome a language barrier, adapt to a new school, and assimilate with her father and brother who, incidentally, think she has arrested development (i.e., that she is still the little girl they left behind). Lydia befriends a troubled filly named Wild Child, who shares a similar desire to understand and yearning to belong. The author weaves the parallel experiences as she alternates between Lidie’s first-person narrative and a third-person narrative that reveals Wild Child’s past and perspective of her surroundings and place in the world.

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