The Wild Book

by Margarita Engle

Newbery Honor-winner Margarita Engle tells her most personal story to date, a glowing portrait in verse of her Cuban grandmother as a young girl struggling with dyslexia.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544022751
  • ISBN-10: 0544022750
  • Pages: 144
  • Publication Date: 01/07/2014
  • Carton Quantity: 48

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About the Book
About the Author
  • Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?

    But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.

  • Word-Blindness


    The doctor hisses it

    like a curse.


    he repeats—some children

    can see everything

    except words.

    They are only blind

    on paper.

    Fefa will never be able

    to read, or write,

    or be happy

    in school.


    It sounds like an evil wizard’s

    prophecy, dangerous

    and dreadful,

    but Mamá does not listen

    to the serpent voice

    of the hissing doctor.

    She climbs in the wagon,

    clucks to the horse,

    and carries us home

    to our beautiful green farm,

    where she tells me to follow

    the good example of Santa Mónica,

    patron saint of patience.


    Mamá murmurs

    with a suffering sigh—who

    ever heard of such an impossible


    She refuses to accept

    the hissing doctor’s verdict.

    Seeds of learning grow slowly,

    she assures me.

    Then she lights a tall,

    slender candle,

    and gives me

    a book.

    I grow anxious.

    I pretend that my eyes hurt.

    I pretend that my head hurts,

    and pretty soon

    it is true.

    I know that the words

    want to trick me.

    The letters will jumble

    and spill off the page,

    leaping and hopping,

    jumping far away,

    like slimy


    Think of this little book

    as a garden,

    Mamá suggests.

    She says it so calmly

    that I promise I will try.

    Throw wildflower seeds

    all over each page, she advises.

    Let the words sprout

    like seedlings,

    then relax and watch

    as your wild diary


    I open the book.


    The pages are white!

    Is this really

    a blank diary,

    or just an ordinary


    filled with frog-slippery

    tricky letters

    that know how to leap

    and escape?

  • A Kirkus Best Children's Book of 2012

    A Bank Street College of Education Best Book


    * "A beautiful tale of perseverance."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review


    "Readers will be enchanted."—VOYA


    "[A] lyrical glimpse of early twentieth-century Cuba."—Booklist


    "Engle’s writing is customarily lovely."—Publishers Weekly


    "[A] remarkable, intimate depiction of Fefa's struggle with dyslexia; Engle is masterful at using words to evoke this difficulty, and even those readers unfamiliar with the condition will understand its meaning through her rich use of imagery and detail."—Bulletin


    "The idea of a wild book on which to let her words sprout is one that should speak to those with reading difficulties and to aspiring poets as well."—School Library Journal