It’s London, 1963 and Maggie Stephens stutters. Because she stutters so badly, Maggie rarely speaks and finds all kinds of ways not to have to speak or read in school. Interestingly, Maggie does not stutter when she speaks to animals. Her parents, concerned (and perhaps a bit embarrassed) about her behavior, wonder if she needs to be treated at Granville, a school for children who don’t seem to fit in to the typical school. Granville is terrifying to Maggie who has heard rumors about how children are beaten if they cry. Looking for a way out of the Granville plan, Maggie agrees to an alternative plan to spend time with her grandfather in Wildoak Forest.
Meanwhile, Rumpus, a snowy leopard for sale at Harrod’s Department Store, is purchased as a birthday present for a woman who seems to have everything. Rumpus is separated from his littermate sister Rosie and is expected to behave like a domesticated cat rather than the wild cat he is. Rumpus is shortly abandoned in none other than the Wildoak Forest, where he and Maggie encounter one another.
The forest is a magical place, and as Maggie’s grandfather notes, it has “Real magic, if you know what I mean.” Her mother thought the air in the forest might be beneficial for Maggie, and in turn, Maggie thinks that maybe, just maybe it would make a difference and her stutter would go away.
But others soon find out about a snowy leopard in Wildoak and his life becomes endangered. Maggie realizes that like herself, time may be running out for Rumpus. Additionally, time may be running out for the forest as well. Copper has been found under the forest and the owner of the land is thinking of mining it. While copper can make the owner rich, mining it is dangerous for the land and those who much remove the ore from the ground.
Bringing together three sentient lives in a race against time, C.C. Harrington’s Wildoak is a story of the interconnectedness of humans, nonhuman animals and the environment, and how we are all dependent upon one another. Told in Maggie’s and Rumpus’ alternating voices, readers are invited into a timeless story of wonder and compassion with an inter-generational relationship that is both beautiful and lovingly respectful. With drawings by Diana Sudyka, the story would make a marvelous read aloud for elementary and middle school students or as a companion piece to Sam Thompson’s Wolfstongue, which also chronicles the interdependence of a young boy who stutters and nonhuman animals. -Recommended by Holly Johnson, Emeritus Professor, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Author: C.C. Harrington
Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
Publisher: Scholastic Press
PubDate: September 20, 2022
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