Twelve-year-old Lidie has spent the past several years imagining what life in America would be like. Her father and older brother, Rafael, have lived in America ever since her mother died when Lidie was seven. Although they left for New York after the incident, Lidie stayed behind in Brazil with her aunt and uncle, waiting for her father to send for her.
Now it’s time for Lidie herself to head to America, and she has mixed feelings. She will miss the bright colors and bold tastes of life on her uncle’s farm and in her aunt’s kitchen. She will miss the challenges of school. Most of all, she will miss her favorite horse, Cavalo, whom she loves to ride like the wind.
Meanwhile, as Lidie is making the long journey from Brazil to New York, so is another girl --- this one a filly from South Carolina. She is mistrustful of most humans, is terrified of cats, and longs more than anything to return to her mother. But there are other plans for her as she too leaves her home and heads north to New York.
When Lidie arrives at her father’s house, she is rather nervous. But her anxiety soon gives way to disappointment when she realizes that her father and brother think that she’s still seven years old! They want to buy her snow boots with bunnies on them, and they’ve decorated her room with Disney characters. Worst of all, they don’t even know that she is an excellent horse rider, possibly even better than her brother, who’s training to be a jockey. They don’t seem to know her at all. School is also a challenge --- the subjects are easy, but the English words she has studied don’t help when she has an emergency, like really needing to use the bathroom.
However, when the filly named “Wild Girl” arrives for Lidie’s horse trainer father, things start to turn around in Lidie’s life as she begins to develop a connection with the horse. But will this newfound friendship be enough to help the skittish filly feel at ease in her new home? And can Wild Girl help Lidie show her father and brother who she really is?
WILD GIRL smoothly alternates between chapters told from Lidie’s point of view and those that reveal, in impressionistic prose, the experiences of the horse. Readers will be quick to pick up on the parallels between the two stories and surprised to see how well they fit together.
Of course, Patricia Reilly Giff’s novel will have great appeal to horse-mad readers, girls like Lidie who have photos and drawings of horses tacked up on their bedroom walls. But WILD GIRL shouldn’t be dismissed as merely another “horse book.” It also provides an insightful glimpse into the immigrant experience, particularly for the large number of immigrants who come to America after immediate family already has been established here. The difficulties of finding your place within a family that seems alien, of deciphering new norms at school, of holding on to the things that make you special --- these topics greatly enrich WILD GIRL and will speak to anyone who has ever felt a desire to belong.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 11, 2011
- Publication Date: January 11, 2011
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Yearling
- ISBN-10: 0440421772
- ISBN-13: 9780440421771