I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Wildoak by C. C. Harrington. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Wildoak, Maggie’s stutter makes her reluctant to talk in school, or at all. Her father is nearly at the end of his rope, threatening to send her away somewhere for “treatment.” Her mother has another idea, though—send her to her grandfather’s for a while, for some fresh air and time to think. Maggie is unsure about this, too, as she hardly knows her grandfather. But it’s better than the alternative, and so she goes. Once there in the English countryside, she makes a remarkable discovery: a baby snow leopard has been abandoned in the woods outside her grandfather’s home, and he needs help to survive. At first, no one believes Maggie, but once the leopard is discovered, Maggie realizes that he is in danger. She takes it upon herself to protect it, and in so doing learns of her own strength.
This was a lovely book! I quite liked Maggie’s character—she’s intelligent and compassionate and determined, a great role model for kids her age. And seeing from her view the struggle and frustration that often comes with a stutter was moving. This speech difference is portrayed with realism and compassion, and it was great to see. But Maggie isn’t defined by this stutter; she’s a fully realized character with depth.
I also liked Rumpus, the baby snow leopard. Harrington’s decision to write from his point of view as well was an intriguing one, and at times it was integral to the plot. I thought it was generally well done, though certainly doesn’t sound like the thoughts of a real snow leopard actually sounds, if we could hear them. Still, it was a cool layer to the story.
The themes of compassion for animals and nature, as well as of courage to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, are so important. They are portrayed so well here, and I think lots of people will appreciate reading this—especially tweens, as this story is geared toward them. Anyone could read this and get something out of it, though.
In the end, Wildoak is a great book. The two main characters are delightful, the descriptions are stellar, and the action is exciting. I love the themes and the empowering message, and though this is set several decades ago, it’s still a timely message of how we humans need to care for each other and for the natural world around us.
Wildoak is available now!