Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: The Wild Book by Juan Villoro

Good morning, Monday! Which means it's time for another exciting week of kidlit...or fence working for me...but I'm sticking with kidlit. Today's book is another translation, this time coming from South America. This one has tons of imagination and well, just take a look for yourselves.

by Juan Villoro
Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Restless Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

From one of Mexico’s foremost authors comes a wondrous adventure story of a boy who goes to live with his kooky, book-obsessed uncle in a library where books have supernatural powers.

“We walked toward the part of the library where the air smelled as if it had been interred for years….. Finally, we got to the hallway where the wooden floor was the creakiest, and we sensed a strange whiff of excitement and fear. It smelled like a creature from a bygone time. It smelled like a dragon.”

Thirteen-year-old Juan’s summer is off to a terrible start. First, his parents separate. Then, almost as bad, Juan is sent away to his strange Uncle Tito’s house for the entire break! Who wants to live with an oddball recluse who has zigzag eyebrows, drinks fifteen cups of smoky tea a day, and lives inside a huge, mysterious library?

As Juan adjusts to his new life among teetering, dusty shelves, he notices something odd: the books move on their own! He rushes to tell Uncle Tito, who lets his nephew in on a secret: Juan is a Princeps Reader, which means books respond magically to him, and he’s the only one who can find the elusive, never-before-read Wild Book. But will Juan and his new friend Catalina get to The Wild Book before the wicked, story-stealing Pirate Book does?

An unforgettable adventure story about books, libraries, and the power of reading, The Wild Book is the young readers’ debut by beloved, prize-winning Mexican author Juan Villoro. It has sold over one million copies in Spanish.



This is one of those books, which I'm glad found its way to an English translation. Adventure, imagination and magic flow wonderfully to create a tale worthy of getting lost in.

Eleven -year-old Juan's life is falling apart. Not only has his father left them for some woman in Paris, but his mother isn't able (mentally or time-wise) to give much support or, in Juan's case, some needed love. Instead, she ships him off to his really strange uncle until she can get life back into some sort of order. As Juan steps into the house packed to the gills with dust and seemingly unordered books, he's not sure what to think. As he wanders the halls, rows, and rooms, he begins to notice that the books are moving. And that's when the adventure begins.

The beginning of this one had me wondering if I'd enjoy the book. The flow is a bit choppy as we meet Juan just as his life is turning upside down. It's not a happy beginning but chaotic, and while it made it a little hard for me to sink in, it does bring across Juan's feelings and the general atmosphere well. It's hard not to sympathize with Juan and hope things get better quick. As soon as Juan gets to his uncle's house, everything takes a huge turn. Imagination takes flight, and the tale right with it. After this, I was completely sucked in.

I simply enjoyed the free adventure in these pages. There's magic, which is simply amazing in and of itself as the books react to Juan. There is a little explanation from his uncle, but it's not clear (even to Juan) what his uncle means by it. And it doesn't have to dig deep, either, because adventure doesn't have to. There are moments of tension, seemingly impossible situations, magical surprises, and tons of adventure. Add a new friendship and the magic of working together, and it's definitely a fun read for more than fantasy fans.

And here he is...

Juan Villoro’s journalistic and literary work has been recognized with such international prizes as the Herralde de Novela, Premio Xavier Villaurrutia, Rey de España, Ciudad de Barcelona, and Vázquez Montalbán de Periodismo Deportivo, and Antonin Artaud. He has been a professor of literature at UNAM, Yale, and la Universidad Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona. He is a columnist for the newspapers Reforma and El Periódico de Catalunya.

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