In the first half of his story about a feral cave-girl and her canine companion, Wormell (George and the Dragon) eloquently articulates the warring emotions that come with self-reliance: yearnings for mastery and fears of abandonment. He describes the cavegirl's existence in brisk, almost clinical terms: "The little girl had no one to brush her hair, or wash her face, or tie her shoelaces like you do. So her hair was a terrible mess and her face quite grubby." Expansively rendered full-spread paintings underscore her vulnerability, placing her in an indifferent, lunar-like wilderness. But in spot illustrations akin to sketches from an anthropologist's notebook, Wormell beautifully showcases her competence. The confident girl sports an animal skin, expertly wields a handmade spear and eats bugs without blanching. This powerful immersion in an abandoned child's life goes awry, however, when Wormell attempts to steepen its dramatic arc. The heroine discovers that a mother bear has left a tiny cub inside her cave, and that the girl has come between them. Is it possible that being alone is not the girl's fate after all? The answer to that question, though framed by a visually dramatic snowstorm and intended to reassure, abruptly shifts the narrative from a realistic survival story into a fairytale with a happy ending (in which bear, cub, girl and canine curl up together). Ages 4-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Ken Marantz
All alone in the wilderness live a wild young girl and her small brown dog. On her own, she manages to hunt for her food and cook it over a fire. From their cave, the girl and her dog can see and hear nobody. One winter day while collecting firewood, however, they find the tracks of a large brown bear leading to their cave. Although the bear has left, they expect and fear its return. When it does come back, they stand fast together to bar the huge animal from the cave. To their surprise, it leaves. Then they discover a cub in the cave, and realize that the mother bear only wanted her baby. The girl and dog go searching for the mother bear in the cold and snow, finally finding her waiting back at the cave. There they all curl up together inside, perhaps sharing fleas, but warm through the winter. The illustrations go beyond the spare text to make us empathetic towards the characters; we even speculate about this strong young girl and her life before we meet her. The sketchy watercolors define her and her wilderness with a sense of scale by showing her against the mountainous environment and the huge brown bear. The mystical quality of the visuals with their final resolution of life together takes the story beyond the text.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-A barefoot girl, dressed in an animal skin, lives in the wilderness with only her small brown dog for companionship. They share their food-fish, nuts, berries, and even insects-as well as their cave. In summer, they sleep outdoors and in winter, they huddle together in the warmth of their cavern. Searching for firewood one snowy day, the girl notices large footprints leading up to and away from the cave as if an animal were scouting the area for shelter. That night, a huge brown bear attempts to enter the den. With shouts, barks, and snowballs, the girl and her dog send the beast scurrying. It's only when a tiny bear appears from the shadows of the cave that the girl realizes that she has separated a mother from her cub. So, she and her two furry companions search for the mother bear and eventually find her sitting at the mouth of the cave, awaiting their return. They all find refuge and warmth as the girl opens her heart and her home to the animals. The isolation of the child and her pet is palpable in the wide expanse of the jagged purple, cream, and brown mountain range in which they live. This is an affecting story of friendship and survival. Read it along with James Mayhew's Boy (Scholastic, 2004) for another tale about a cave child.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A wild girl ("no one to brush her hair, or wash her face, or tie her shoelaces . . .") and her small brown dog survive in the mountain wilderness without ever seeing evidence of another living soul. "She had to learn things for herself." The loneliness is heartbreakingly palatable, until one day a giant bear discovers their cave and leaves her footprints going inside and out. When the girl chases away the bear, she discovers the cub that's been left behind. What follows is an unexpected story of compassion by the British author and illustrator, who also manages to cleverly combine humor and suspense to relay the idea that resources may be pooled in a time of need: The girl shares her cave, the bear shares her body heat and the dog shares . . . his fleas. Soft illustrations depict the emotions of the characters (the bears are especially affecting), while clearly portraying how beautiful the changing landscape is throughout the seasons. Absolutely charming. (Picture book. 3-7)