Review of Wildoak, by C. C. Harrington


by C. C. Harrington

Scholastic Press, 2022. 324 pages.
Review written February 21, 2023, from a library book
Starred Review
2023 Schneider Family Award Winner, Middle Grades

Wildoak is set in 1963 in England, featuring Maggie, a girl who stutters. Maggie goes to drastic measures to avoid speaking aloud in class, and three schools have told her parents her disruption isn’t welcome. Her father seems ashamed of her. But in a last-ditch effort before sending her to an institution, her mother sends Maggie to her grandfather in Cornwall for two weeks.

Maggie has always been able to talk to animals without stuttering and has a small menagerie of animals she loves, but the only ones she can bring with her are two snails. Her grandfather encourages her to explore the woods, though the local landowner is planning to bulldoze one of the oldest forests remaining in England. But meanwhile, a wealthy society lady has released into that very forest a snow leopard cub she was given as an exotic pet.

Maggie sees the snow leopard, and later rescues him from a cruel trap. But her grandfather doesn’t believe her, because of course there aren’t leopards in Cornwall. It’s up to Maggie to help the cub recover from his wound and then defend him when the townsfolk start sighting a “monster” in the woods.

The book tells a gentle story about the small standing up to the powerful and about Maggie learning to use her voice, even if it won’t always do what she wants it to.

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