Wilde

Authored by Eloise Williams
Illustrated by Guy Manning
Published by Firefly Press

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A celebration of self when fitting in is so hard.

Wilde meant to get kicked out of school; there have been a lot of strange things happening. But she doesn’t count on being sent to stay with her aunt at the weirdest town ever – Witch Point. Jumping out of the frying pan and into the cauldron, Wilde can’t help but think it’s her. Wilde, weird, and Witch Point seem linked by something much deeper than the alluring alliteration. Wilde feels she has to “practise being normal”. All while having to deal with school, curses, friendships, and her own identity before a scolding climax. 

Children’s Laureate for Wales, Eloise Williams, combines myth, nature, growing up, and the school story into a little over 200 pages. Well balanced, not one element dominates and doesn’t feel rushed or condensed. The reading experience, as a result, is a joy.

The main theme of the book is individuality. Having always felt like an outsider, Wilde learns to embrace her differences. This, she discovers, is not always an easy thing to do. Readers will find this a comfort; accepting who we are can be a journey of different lengths and terrains. Williams does this with a sensitive honesty that celebrates difference.

However, the biggest spell Williams casts on her readers is through her language. This I can’t emphasise enough. Being playful with language can be hard; it’s hard to teach, and hard to grasp. What Wilde does is expose readers to this playfulness so children can see it in the — wild.

Five examples:

“The lie ricochets, whizzes past my ear, then bounces off the wall to clip the back of my head.”

“The day pinks into lavender, stars button the sky…”

“‘I’m Jemima. Mimes to my friends. So, you can call me Jemima.’”

“Jemima smugs as she has never smugged before.”

“Hornets drone past as the sky bruises.”

KS2 children will devour Wilde, and it’s also a great transition book for year 6. If the goal is to get children reading for pleasure, then they won’t find more pleasure in many other books than Wilde.