Review: The Wonderling

The Wonderling The Wonderling by Mira Bartok
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Mira Bartók has ventured back into the rich world of children's literature with a book for middle-grade children. One of the powerful lessons of this book, which is told as a sort of old-fashioned, Victorian-era chapter-book a la Dickens, is that to be broken is not to be without true friends or promise in life. This book begins in a workhouse, with a life of drudgery and maltreatment that could come straight out of Oliver Twist. Thirteen, soon to be renamed as Arthur by the loving Trinket (the best orphanage sidekick anyone could hope to have), is a lost, lonely and downtrodden one-eared fox boy. At first, I was rather troubled by how fearful and lacking in courage Arthur was, over almost the first quarter of the book. He was so beaten down, and yet Trinket, and other friends, eventually manage to draw great things out of Arthur and he finds magic and wonder in himself, in spite of his perceived disability. Over the course of the beautifully illustrated book (and the galley didn't even have half the art of the final work, people!) we see Arthur emerge as stronger, braver and building his own rich life.

For me, this book is personal and poignant because my youngest child, who had permanent health issues, was adopted out of bleak circumstances in the foster care system. At age 8, when he came to live with us, much of his manner resembled that of Arthur's. Almost everything was perceived as too great a hurdle to even dare to try to overcome. (Ironically, including reading, for a time.) And that forms part of my love for this book. It is a story of a wounded boy, who had lost much but found a chosen family and life of his own making, all with the support of friends. You will take a magical journey, with Arthur, to the future and the past, to 17 Tintagel Road and back to where we started.

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