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The Wild Kid


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About the Author

Harry Mazer is the author of many books for young readers, including Please, Somebody Tell Me Who I Am; My Brother Abe; the Boy at War trilogy; The Wild Kid; The Dog in the Freezer; The Island Keeper; and Snow Bound. His books have won numerous honors, including a Horn Book honor and an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults citation. Along with his wife, Norma Fox Mazer, Harry received an ALAN award in 2003 for outstanding contribution to adolescent literature. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont.


Readers may at first be misled, thinking that the wild kid of the title is the worried-looking boy clinging with long slender fingers to a cliff in the eye-catching jacket painting. However, once they reach the pictured climactic scene, readers may be surprised that the lad portrayed is the story's very tame protagonist, Sammy, a pudgy, maladroit 12-year-old with Down syndrome. With his simply worded third- person narrative, Mazer (Snowbound; The Dog in the Freezer) captures the thoughts and emotions‘and occasionally profound insights‘of someone whom most people, including the boy's own family, discount for being "retarded." Made to stay outside because he insulted his mother's boyfriend, "uncle" Carl, Sammy takes off on his bike rather than apologize. But the bike gets stolen, and in chasing down the thief, Sammy winds up lost in a nearby state forest where he literally stumbles across the eponymous Kevin. A reform-school escapee, Kevin at first keeps Sammy prisoner in his rude shelter, but then befriends him and teaches him to overcome some of his supposed disabilities. Sammy's innocent, doglike faith in suspicious, cynical Kevin is touching, yet not enough to sustain what is more like a novella than a full-length novel. And with the tensions that caused Sammy to leave home remaining unresolved upon his return, the ending falls flat. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

Gr 4-8-Sammy's troubles keep escalating. First he is punished for being fresh to Mom's friend Carl. Then he goes off to the store by himself, which is forbidden, and his new bike is stolen when he fails to chain it. Chasing the thief, Sammy becomes lost. Mazer brings the boy to life without revealing to readers anything that Sammy wouldn't tell, until Kevin, a wild kid who holds him captive in the woods, asks him if he's dumb. He says, "No, I'm Down's. I'm young for my age. I'm a special person." Vividly and with a fast pace, Mazer describes Sammy's world, his awful predicament, his magnificent spirit, and his incredible determination. The wild kid gradually changes from a vicious monster into a friend. As Sammy says, "Just because you're not always good doesn't make you bad." During their time together, Kevin and Sammy learn some important lessons from one another. The sentences are short, the descriptions simple, and the interaction between the characters complex and intriguing. Readers need to piece together Kevin's history and decipher the sometimes conflicting statements that Sammy makes. Phrases often used with persons with disabilities echo throughout the narrative. Yet this is not a "special" book for "special" readers, as sometimes books are termed that are too difficult or too limited in appeal. It's for anyone looking for an adventure, a survival story on many levels, or a compelling read.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA

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