Reviews for Wild Life

Booklist Reviews 2011 July #1
After both of his U.S. Army reservist parents are ordered to Iraq, 12-year-old Erik finds himself transported from his upstate New York home to his grandparents' farm in North Dakota. Erik barely knows his grandparents, and his taciturn, angry grandfather seems to resent his presence. A young, stray retriever, injured after an encounter with a porcupine, helps to ease Erik's loneliness, and when he is told that he must give up the dog, he runs away. Using a shotgun to bag pheasants, Erik survives for a few days alone in the high plains, but with winter approaching, he finally faces reality and heads back to his relatives. Upon returning, Erik discovers both connection and loss as he tries to adjust to his new circumstances. DeFelice takes her plot down a well-worn path of family upset and wilderness adventure, but her frank descriptions of the delights of hunting include rare scenes in children's books, from Erik's discovery of the contents of a pheasant's gut to his struggle to learn how to balance a shot. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
After getting his hunting license, Erik looks forward to tramping through pheasant fields with his best friend. But when his parents are deployed to Iraq, Erik is sent to his grandparents' farm. After his obstinate grandfather threatens the dog Erik rescues, boy and hound escape to the vast North Dakota fields. Strong characters and meticulous survival facts create a believable adventure. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #1
A rare boy-and-his-gun story that accepts a hunting culture instead of demonizing the tool. Both of Erik's Reservist parents are being deployed to Iraq. Erik wants to stay in upstate New York with a friend whose father has been helping them get their Hunter Safety Certificates and dreams of living like the pioneers, camping out and shooting game for food. By contrast, being sent to North Dakota to live with farming grandparents last seen nine years ago when he was three just sounds ghastly, though of course that's exactly what happens. Once there, Erik finds the complete emptiness of the prairie landscape boring. While Oma is friendly and kind, Opa, known as Big Darrell, is intimidating. A room belonging to an uncle who died in Vietnam hints at the source of Big Darrell's gruffness, but it doesn't explain his rejection of a dog that Erik helps rescue from a porcupine attack. As his inevitable disgruntlement leads Erik to attempt life in the wild, readers are treated to a modern-day anti-survival adventure. The inevitable mishaps and how Erik copes provide some adventure, but he returns so easily that readers may feel cheated. Sturdily conveyed, the lessons are telegraphed on each page. The boy-and-dog partnership here is mildly appealing, but what really makes it stand out are the deftly folded-in gun lessons and easy acceptance of the way of life they accompany. (Fiction. 8-12)
Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 June

Gr 4-8--With both of his Army Reserve parents leaving for six-month deployments to Iraq, Erik, an upstate New York seventh grader, is sent to live with grandparents he hardly knows. He and his friend Patrick have just aced a course in bird hunting, but now he must leave that all behind as he flies to North Dakota to live with Oma and Big Darrell. He is disenchanted with his new setting and unhappy about the intimidating gruffness of his grandfather, but his spirit revives after finding a lost bird dog with a muzzle full of porcupine quills. Despite objections from Big Darrell, Erik eagerly cares for the healing dog he has named Quill. The two bond instantly, and the boy grows reluctant to return this exceptionally well-behaved dog once her owner is identified. Finding camping gear, outdoor clothing, and a shotgun in the shrinelike bedroom of his Uncle Dan, who died in the Vietnam War, Erik rationalizes a plan to take the gun, the dog, and other supplies and go live off the land. In some fine descriptive passages, the story advances through five days of bird-dog hunting, encountering snow, and sleeping under the stars until the reality of the situation finally brings them home to Oma and Big Darrell, who both offer forgiveness. Themes of accepting change and learning to let go are woven into this winning tale of boy and dog.--Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT

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