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Wild Things

Wild Things

5.0 5
by Clay Carmichael

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A headstrong girl. A stray cat. A wild boy. A man who plays with fire. Eleven-year-old Zoë trusts no one. Her father left before she was born. At the death of her irresponsible mother, Zoë goes to live with her uncle, former surgeon and famed metal sculptor Dr. Henry Royster. She's sure Henry will fail her as everyone else has. Reclusive since his wife's


A headstrong girl. A stray cat. A wild boy. A man who plays with fire. Eleven-year-old Zoë trusts no one. Her father left before she was born. At the death of her irresponsible mother, Zoë goes to live with her uncle, former surgeon and famed metal sculptor Dr. Henry Royster. She's sure Henry will fail her as everyone else has. Reclusive since his wife's death, Henry takes Zoë to Sugar Hill, North Carolina, where he welds sculptures as stormy as his moods. Zoë and Henry have much in common: brains, fiery and creative natures, and badly broken hearts. Zoë confronts small-town prejudice with a quick temper. She warms to Henry's odd but devoted friends, meets a mysterious teenage boy living wild in the neighboring woods, and works to win the trust of a feral cat while struggling to trust in anyone herself. In this ALA Notable Children's Book and Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year, Zoë's questing spirit leads her to uncover the wild boy's identity, lay bare a local lie, and begin to understand the true power of Henry's art. Then one decisive night, she and the boy risk everything in a reckless act of heroism.

I'd hoped for better, Henry's being a heart doctor. A job like that, you'd think he might actually have a heart.
As usual, I pushed the cart down the aisle myself, taking what I needed off the shelves, the new grown-up as useless as those before him. Negative help, as Mama's friend Manny used to say, negative being less than none. No big deal. Grocery shopping and I were old friends, along with toilet scrubbing, vacuuming, and wash.
Said grown-up—my before-last-Monday-never-heard-of Uncle Henry—trailed behind, … alternating between keeping five or six paces back like I was contagious and breathing down my neck in the unlikely event I needed him for something. I wondered why he'd claimed me at all. —FROM THE BOOK

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jody J. Little
This wonderfully rich and layered novel is filled with real and symbolic "wild things." There is the main character, Zoe, an untrusting eleven-year-old girl, who goes to live with her Uncle Henry after the death of her mentally-ill mother. There is the old feral cat that has lived in the woods near Henry's house for years. There are Uncle Henry's eccentric metal sculptures, and there is the beautiful white deer and her mysterious companion who roam the woods. Zoe quickly learns that her Uncle Henry is not like the troubled men her mother knew. Henry is kind and reclusive. Zoe warms to his friends, particularly Bessie, the fragile wife of Henry's caretaker. One day, while roaming the woods around Henry's home, Zoe stumbles upon a seemingly abandoned cabin. The cabin becomes Zoe's hideout, a place for her to be alone and write in her journals and read the books that her teacher has loaned her. Zoe becomes furious when, one day, she discovers her hideout has been ransacked, and her special journal is missing. This incident leads to multiple events: the near fatal shooting of the white deer, the discovery of the wild boy who cares for the deer, and the eventual unfolding of the wild boy's connection to Zoe and her family. The author tells her story through Zoe, but readers learn the family's history through the stray cat that Zoe eventually tames. These alternating viewpoints, combined with intriguing subplots and the theme of learning to trust, make this a fantastic book for classroom or small group discussions. Reviewer: Jody J. Little
VOYA - Victoria Vogel
Clay Carmichael has crafted a beautiful tale about the effect kindness can have on trust. Eleven-year-old Zoe Royston finds herself in the care of her Uncle Henry, a well-known artist, when her troubled mother commits suicide. At first, she is wary of him and resents having to attend school, which had previously been low on the priorities list. As time progresses, however, she meets some of the fellow residents of Uncle Henry's small town and is warmed by their caring ways. She forms a relationship with a feral cat hanging around her uncle's house and names him Mr. C-mere (as in "come here"). The two work their way slowly but surely into each other's lives. In alternating chapters, the cat tells of his life leading up to meeting Zoe and his current observations about the people around her. He knows the background of the abandoned trailer that Zoe has found in the woods behind her uncle's house and the identity of the mysterious creature lurking around it. His cat senses cause him to be even more hesitant than Zoe to trust and his wild instincts prevent him from letting his guard down. Zoe's willingness to dive head first into unfamiliar territory both puzzles and intrigues him. Compassion and gentility transform the wild things in this novel, both human and animal. Carmichael's beautifully written story is wonderful. It pulls the reader into the lives of these interesting characters and their small town. Readers both young and old will find Zoe a likeable and touching character and will be moved by the people who try to help her. This novel is a wonderful addition to any fiction collection. Reviewer: Victoria Vogel
VOYA - Carlisle K. Webber
Zoe, eleven and wild, comes to live with her half-uncle Henry when her mother dies. Henry, a doctor turned metal sculptor, is the only reliable adult in Zoe's life. Unlike Zoe's mentally ill mother and her string of no-good boyfriends, Henry works steadily and is able to provide Zoe with basic needs like new clothing and clean shelter. For the first time in her life, wise-beyond-her-years Zoe must attend school regularly, even though she considers herself too smart for school in everything except math. Interspersed with Zoe's story are passages centering on a feral cat that lives under Henry's porch, which is supposed to parallel Zoe's life, show her passion for animals, and explain some of her family's history. Full of hokey dialogue and flat characters, this book is best enjoyed by adults who want to reassure themselves of children's wisdom and need for solid adult guidance. There are no children in the book save for Zoe until about the midpoint, and they serve only to antagonize. The adults are all fonts of wisdom, especially Zoe's teacher, who gives her a journal in which to write. Rounding out the book's long list of flaws are slow pacing, long descriptions that do little to move the book forward, and the completely unintriguing mystery of a boy living in a nearby woods. Reviewer: Carlisle K. Webber
Kirkus Reviews
After the death of her mentally ill mother, Zoe-tart-tongued and valiant-is adopted by her paternal uncle, artist Henry Royster, and with his help moves toward a more conventional life. The structure is complex, alternating Zoe's first-person commentary with narration from the point of view of the cat living under Henry's porch-a technique that provides information and builds suspense without creating spoilers. Girl and cat follow parallel journeys to trust in their present safety and comfort. Strongly drawn characters-Zoe, Henry and the people in their small town-come alive on the pages of this debut novel. There are resonances and echoes of the children's books important to Zoe-The Secret Garden, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Golden Compass and, a story integral to this tale, The Boy Who Drew Cats. A tribute to the power of story, this is ultimately a tale of hope and redemption. Zoe Royster, peer to the literary heroines she so loves, is as memorable in her own way as the Great Gilly Hopkins, Opal Buloni and Anne Shirley. (Fiction. 9-12) Starred Review
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Reminiscent in many ways of Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, Clay Carmichael's novel (Front Street, 2009) tells the humorous and heartbreaking story of a number of wild characters both human and animal. The narration is mainly told in the first person by feisty 11-year-old orphan Zoe who has been sent to live with Uncle Henry, a famous sculptor, after her mother's suicide. Mr. C'mere, a feral cat, narrates occasional chapters. Liz Morton delivers the cat's thoughts in a cool, matter-of-fact way, and does an excellent job of bringing the other characters to life. Zoe acts as a catalyst in her new surroundings, bringing together various solitary people, Mr. C'Mere, and a mysterious white deer. As the relationships build so too does Zoe's sense of well-being and security. Carmichael's accomplished handling of characterization is all the more compelling when compared to the many plot-driven aspects of this story. Highly recommended.—B. Allison Gray, Santa Barbara Public Library, Goleta Branch, CA

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Clay Carmichael has written award-winning children's books that have been translated into many languages. She teaches writing and illustrating and lives in Carrboro, North Carolina.

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Wild Things 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Wild-thing More than 1 year ago
This book is personally my favorite book in the whole world!! It's about 11 year  old ( sneaking up on twelve) Zoe, who gets abandoned by her dad and has a  mom who spends more time in mental hospitals than not. After being taken  care of by her moms many boyfriends and after her mom dies, she is sent to live with her uncle Henry, a professional heart doctor and famous sculptor. At  first she thinks that all they have in common is their red hair and fiery attitudes, but read farther into the book, and you'll see that they have much more in common than they think. This book is amazing, from a cat she finds in Henry's back yard to a wild boy and a white deer that live in the woods. "Wild Things" is sure to keep you turning pages. 
Sar_Man More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book I recommend this to everyone no matter what age.
LissaMonster More than 1 year ago
There's a man and a girl and an old feral cat who all learn to trust and love. There's a family made up of people who have chosen each other. There are hardships and discovery and forgiveness and friendships. There's art and following your spirit. And it made me cry. In a good way. I absolutely adore this book.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In WILD THINGS, protagonist Zoe no longer trusts anyone. Both her parents have now left her; her father left at an early age, and now her mother, an irresponsible mother and slob, has died. As a result of her traumatic, unbelievably self-sufficient childhood, Zoe trusts only herself. To begin, Zoe goes to live with her uncle, Dr. Henry Royster, a surgeon. In his house she finds massive sharp metal sculptures dangling in a room, as she finds out her uncle is a famed sculptor. Though reluctant to trust Henry because everyone else in her life has failed her, Zoe finds much in common with him, especially their equally broken hearts. All the while, Zoe meets a cast of friendly, curious characters who are loyal to Henry and begin to mend her heart, along with a wise cat and a mystical boy in the nearby forest. Zoe's curiosity, as she explores the woods, leads to adventure, heroism, and more as she unmasks the boy's identity, defiles a local lie, and more through her Wild Spirit. The tale of WILD THINGS is a wondrous page-turner. What a phenomenal debut book by Ms. Carmichael. Throughout the story, I was stunned by the depth of the characters, and how I truly connected with many of them. My favorite part was the added perspective of the narrative of the wild cat, which adds an excellent dimension to this book. Carmichael, inspired by her actual husband, also a metal artist, skillfully weaves this story and interesting characters together to create the masterpiece that is WILD THINGS. A must-read for all readers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone of any age, particularly animal lovers!