The Wild Book by Juan Villoro, Lawrence Schimel (Translator)
Publisher: Restless Books
Genre:Fantasy and Young Adult
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Pages: 240 (Hardcover)
Juan is looking forward to spending the summer having adventures with his best friend when he gets terrible news: not only are his parents separating, but he has to go live with his strange uncle Tito, who lives in a rambling home with three cats and about one million books. Shy and wary, Juan starts to explore Tito’s library, which is unlike any Juan has ever seen: the books are arranged in strange sections like “Motors That Make No Noise,” “Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious,” and “How to Govern Without Being President,” and some of them seem to change location each time you look for them. In fact, Tito tells him that a book finds a reader when it’s needed, and not the other way around.
Soon, Tito lets his nephew in on a secret: Juan is a Princeps Reader, to whom books respond in a very special way, and Tito needs his help finding a special volume called The Wild Book, which has never allowed itself to be read. Juan is joined in the quest by his little sister and the pretty girl who works at the pharmacy across the street, and together they battle the nefarious Pirate Book, which steals words out of existing stories. Over the summer, with the help of his new friends, Juan learns all sorts of secrets about world classics from Alice in Wonderland to The Metamorphosis, and overcomes his fear of change and the unfamiliar.
It should be said that Translations are tricky. Most times, they are not that great, they miss the point and style the author tries to convey. While I’ve read a few, this one, I believe, expresses the author’s intentions excellently because I loved this novel despite being geared towards a younger audience. The illustrations are also so insanely beautiful, the different ways in which the books come to life and illustrate the stories hidden inside of them. It’s awesome.
The entire adventure is great, the passion both Juan and Catalina display towards helping uncle Tito to find the wild book and using clever ideas like their own interests to greet the book. I also loved the books themselves–the personification put into them, the way they had real, honest emotions and even got sick is such a beautifully written and executed. The story is extremely intricate and the in-depth descriptions it gives of the different rooms, like the shadow room and the stature room is also beautiful. Juan Villoro and Lawrence Schimel do a fantastic job with the writing and style (and so do all of the editors!). The story simply flows and reads off the page, it was hard to put this one down.
Luckily, the things that bothered me within this story are few. They pretty much all have to do with the ending. And looking at upon my notes, I do realize that this story is for a very young audience but still. I did not like the way it was so neatly tied up. It glosses over the good bits about Juan as an adult and how him and Catalina meet again or even after the summers ends. It’s just too tidy for my liking. It would have been nice if they explained the wild book more in-depth as they decided to do with other books.
Nonetheless, this story is a lot of fun. It relies on other stories and the imagination in order to get across to readers and it’s a light read. The characters are well-developed and I enjoyed reading all about their adventures, especially uncle Tito. I would love a story solely on him and his adventures in that beautiful library.