The wild one by Sonya Hartnett

cover image

Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Penguin/Viking, 2014. ISBN 9780670076970
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Environment, Generations, Childhood. Charlie loves going into the woods to meet his friend, the wild one, his inner self. He whiles away the days, climbing trees, running through the woods, kicking up the leaves, catching tadpoles. When Charlie goes home, wild one stays behind. Eventually Charlie must go to school, and gradually his days are filled with learning, with mathematics and science and astronomy. Charlie hopes that he has not forgotten his wild self and next time they meet he tells him that he wishes to be a doctor. He achieves his aim but his days are now so filled with work that he forgets the wild one, until he one day has a son.
An allegory for our times, this fable like story talks of the power of not forgetting one's childhood.
Charlie has a carefree existence as a child, but once he becomes an adult with adult responsibilities, the life he knew disappears. He remembers when he has a son, and as life goes on, his granddaughter is the one he takes to the woods to see what he had learnt as a young boy.
Things may have changed, Charlie has changed, older trees have died, some have been replaced by new saplings, but the wild place is still there. Regeneration and rebirth continues. Life goes on.
Masciullo's illustrations perfectly parallel and add to the words, offering a clear image of the cycle of life and death, of rebirth and regeneration. The soft pencil and watercolour drawings show the city in the background, the woods and river closer to the reader. As the pages are turned we see images of Charlie doing all the things that kids do when outside, things that some may have forgotten. His wildness may have been neglected for a while, but it returns to pass onto a new generation.
This will have wide appeal. Many adults reading it will recall their own wild self, long forgotten and it is hoped they may resolve to ensure their children experience it as well. Children will see the life cycles, of birth, death and regeneration, and reflect on the freedom of former generations, resolving too to make use of their time in the wild.
Fran Knight