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Reviewed by:
  • When I Met the Wolf Girls
  • Deborah Stevenson
Noyes, Deborah When I Met the Wolf Girls; illus. by August Hall. Houghton, 2007 [40p] ISBN 0-618-60567-3$17.00 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-5

The story of Amala and Kamala, feral girls found in India in 1920 in, the account goes, a wolf's den, is an enduringly fascinating one; Noyes, author of One Kingdom: Our Lives with Animals (BCCB 12/06), offers a fictionalized exploration of the girls' arrival and lives at the orphanage that housed them. The narrator, Bulu, is another orphanage resident, and she tells in lyrical ragged-right prose of her fear of the wild jungle on the other side of the orphanage fence, the girls' disruptive presence at the facility, and her fascination with troubled, nearly language-less Kamala, who's left on her own after her little sister dies. The narrative arc is a quiet one, with Bulu gradually adapting to Kamala and seeing in her a symbol of the taming of the jungle that Bulu had once feared, but the story will be compelling in its strangeness even to those who don't catch the subtle signals of the story's direction. Hall's acrylic illustrations are a little disconcertingly cartoonish in their toothy-grinned orphanage residents with stick-figure limbs, but there's a thematically appropriate echo of Henri Rousseau in the depiction of the tenuous boundary between the wild and the domestic. This will make an illuminating partner to Yolen's nonfiction The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History or to Gerstein's story of another feral child, Wild Boy (BCCB 12/98). An author's note provides more information about Amala and Kamala and gives her sources.



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