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You cannot tame something so happily wild – Wild an Illustrated Children’s Book

By November 27, 2014 2 Comments

“Wild” is the book that I will read to my child, if I have one. This is the perfect children’s book!

We are in love with this blog post from BrainPickings.


A tender and mischievous invitation to pause and ask, as Mary Oliver did: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“All good things are wild and free,”Thoreau wrote in his terrific treatise on walking. More than 150 years later, Hawaiian-born, British-based illustrator Emily Hughes makes an imaginative 21st-century case for this in Wild  — an irreverent, charming, and oh-so-delightfully illustrated story, partway between Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

The story opens with a joyful and carefree little girl native to the woods, raised by the creatures of the whole forest. She is boundlessly, ebulliently wild, and wholly unashamed of her wildness.

Bird taught her to speak.
Bear taught her how to eat.
Fox taught her how to play.
And she understood, and was happy.

One day, two creatures who look an awful lot like her, only bigger, appear out of nowhere, put her in the belly of their metal beast, and hurl her into a wholly different new life — a civilized one.

Off in the big city, a somewhat well-meaning but rather dictatorial elderly couple sets out to de-wild her. “FAMED PSYCHIATRIST TAKES IN FERAL CHILD,” a newspaper headline proclaims.

The little girl is frightened, but mostly perplexed.

They spoke wrong.
They ate wrong.
They played wrong.
And she did not understand, and she was not happy.

One day, she has had enough.

Because you cannot tame something so happily wild…

Emanating from the playful and poetic story is a clarion call to shake off the external should’s that shackle us and stop keeping ourselves small by trying to please others, to celebrate what John Steinbeck called “the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected”. It is an invitation, at once tender and mischievous, to pause and ask, as Mary Oliver memorably did: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Wild is one of the loveliest and most endearing picture-books I’ve seen this side of the century and comes from British indie publisher Flying Eye Books, unending source of treasures like Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds, Monsters & Legends,Shackleton’s Journey, Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, and Hug Me.

Illustrations courtesy of Flying Eye Books / Emily Hughes; photographs my own

Author Alissa Wild

Alissa is a wild woman introvert who loves wandering through the forest trails of her local woodlands seeking birdsong and keepsakes. She founded We Are Wildness in an effort to help people by inspiring them to get outside and reconnect with the wild world. She's a backyard naturalist, eco-feminist, and feels an ardent connection to those feathered, finned, and furred. She relishes regular time in solitude to nourish spirit and feels most at home in the rivers and forests of Coast Salish territories on Vancouver Island.

More posts by Alissa Wild
  • Heidi B.

    Thank you for posting this! My 2 year old LOVES books and I think this is an important one.

  • Jodie

    I currently have this on loan from the public library. My kids love it. 🙂