Review Blog

Sep 16 2020

The wild way home by Sophie Kirtley

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526616289.
Recommended for primary and middle school students. Charlie and friends, Lamont and Beaky have been playing in Mandel Forest since they were small, and while playing a game of hunters and hunted Charlie finds a deer tooth with twelve marks on it. This seems auspicious as not only is Charlie about to turn twelve but a much longed for baby brother or sister is about to be born. When Dara is born with a serious heart condition Charlie runs away from the hospital and distressed parents, escaping into the woods, led by a bird to someone lying face down in a stream. Not stopping to think Charlie rescues the person who turns out to be a long haired boy with a head injury wearing nothing but animal skins. Not only does the boy look and sound strange but the forest has changed and when Charlie tries to find the path to go and get help, it is not there. However, familiar landmarks like Pinnacle Rock and the Spirit Stone are recognisable, suggesting to Charlie that this is another version of the world, another dimension. There is no time to dwell on this as they try to survive in this Stone Age wild world of wolves, bears and lynx, courageously facing challenges and sharing laughter.  They discover that instead of difference, Charlie and Hart boy are struggling with the same fears for their families. The setting is evocative with all the features of the Stone Age, cave paintings, spears and flint tools and the wild forest with its deep spirituality is the perfect place for an adventure.
Readers will find it easy to identify with Charlie's hopes and fears especially as we are left guessing as to her/his gender and appearance. We can hold our breath at the well-constructed moments of tension, laugh and cry as the adventure unfolds and identify with the characters' need to escape. "If only we could wish things away just by not thinking about them". p. 187.
A lovely first novel with echoes of Stig of the Dump by Clive King and Skellig by David Almond. Wouldn't it be good to have a similar story set in ancient Australia?
Themes: family, Stone Age, adventure.
Sue Speck

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