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The Wild Girls

The Wild Girls

4.4 24
by Pat Murphy

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It?s 1972. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called ?Fox,? and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find


It?s 1972. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called ?Fox,? and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante. The Wild Girls brilliantly explores friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers.

Editorial Reviews

Moving is difficult to do at any age but especially for a young girl of twelve in the 1970s. Joan is sure that she will hate California after living in Connecticut, and it is not as if her parents are getting along any better or her older brother is suddenly being nice. Things start to change when Joan meets Sarah, a girl who calls herself Fox and lives in the middle of the woods in a rundown house with her tattooed, biker father. Joan ponders the difference between Fox in the woods and Sarah in school, leading Joan to take a look at truth and being true to oneself. The girls become involved in writing, taking part in a summer workshop lead by quirky instructor Verla Volante. Self-discovery and a better understanding of the adults in their lives emerge from their writing. Students will be captivated by the characters in this masterfully crafted story that handles coming-of-age issues beautifully. The strongest message is about writing; the process is modeled through Fox and Joan's dialogue. The girls face the dilemma of writing what the teacher wants to read or writing about what they want to communicate, telling a story in an acceptable way or as they want to tell it. The cathartic effect of journaling and writing is explored, showing how putting feelings on paper can help clarify thoughts or allow feelings to be released. Readers will want to write more. Reviewer: Susan Allen
Children's Literature
This wonderful story takes place in the 1970s and centers around Joan, a twelve year old whose family has just moved to California from Connecticut. Joan is a curious and unusually sensitive child. One day while exploring the new area she has moved into, Joan comes upon an unusual girl about her own age who lives with her father, a writer of science fiction books, in a ramshackle house deep in the woods. The two girls begin writing stories together, and when one of them wins first place in a student writing contest and the two concoct a unique presentation at the writing ceremony, they meet a kindred spirit by the name of Verla Volante who recruits them for a summer writing class. The story unfolds showing clearly the sensitivity and knowledge of the creative process by the author. The story is powerfully written, showing the similarities yet differences between the girls that bind them together. They are able to see the connections between their own lives and the problems they have to handle and the creative process of observation in their writing. The story flows smoothly and keeps the reader riveted to each chapter. Well-written, unusual and absolutely perfect for children who may not quite fit in with the normal crowd. Reviewer: Joan Elste
School Library Journal

Gr 5-9 Told by Joan, a recent transplant from Connecticut to Northern California in 1972, this tale embodies the transformative power of both the written word and friendship. While trekking through the woods near her house, the 11-year-old stumbles upon Sarah, who calls herself Fox. The two girls become inseparable companions in exploring the outdoors and their imaginations. They overcome disparities in background: Joan has a more traditional suburban life with a mother who tries to compensate for a sour, unhappy father; Fox lives with her father, a science-fiction author, in a run-down house, and prefers to believe that the mother who abandoned her years ago did so because she was transformed into a fox. Joan can't penetrate Fox's outsider persona at school, but away from class, they compose a contest-winning story of two girls questing in a magical forest. Their read-aloud performance at a San Francisco ceremony, wearing full lipstick war paint to make them feel suitably wild, gains them admittance to a summer writing program at Berkeley. Their avant-garde instructor urges them to pay attention and ask questions, helping them become stronger writers and more confident people, able to deal with difficult family challenges. Supporting characters are fully formed and intriguing. Murphy evokes her setting with skill and plays out themes of creativity and self-expression with grace and intensity. Readers will applaud the metamorphoses of Fox and Joan, who come to understand themselves and others through their art.-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA

Kirkus Reviews
Large, generous and creative characters populate this deeply satisfying novel that tells the story of "Newt" and "Fox" and how they learn to take on the challenges of their lives. In 1972, Joan's (Newt) father gets a new job in San Francisco and relocates his family from Connecticut to the suburban California town of Danville. Joan sets about exploring and meets Sarah (Fox). The two immediately form a friendship and bond as they share their inner conflicts: Joan's parents argue constantly (readers might grow to really dislike the father and will be surprised at the compassionate treatment he gets), and Sarah's mother, who had abandoned the family years before, returns to ask her husband, Gus, for a divorce. In the meantime, the girls have written a short story together for a class project, which Joan submits to a contest without the knowledge of her teacher. They win and earn themselves spots in a unique writing workshop run by free spirit Verla Volante. There, Verla's assignments and writing advice (which really is life advice) assist the girls in their self-exploration and help them achieve the insight and personal strength they need to triumph. A terrific mix of imagination, insight, character inventiveness and kindness create the kind of read that nourishes young minds and hearts. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Meet the Author

Pat Murphy lives in San Francisco, California.

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The Wild Girls 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a bookseller specializing in children's books and this is one of the best books I have read in so long that I want to point it out to everyone. Two very different girls, one new to the area, are very supportive friends whose families are each going through some rough patches. They meet at a treehouse in the woods, catch salamanders and form a bond of friendship that helps them both have some adventures that take them out of their everyday problems. Sensitive writing and interesting characters make you sorry that the book has to end. It is one of the years best.
kindofodd More than 1 year ago
This book made me realize what a real friendship is really about, I couldn't put this book down it was so amusing and inspirational to let girls know they can break free and express themselves. Also, accepting the truth in ourselves even when we're put in awkward positions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reading the book but not hear and i LOVE it!! Newt and Fox are such good friends. Fox is being her normal self and newt got inspired by the advendures Fox and Newt had. This made me think. I love writing!! Its just amazing. Newt and Fox always be friends maby because i didnt read the whole thing. :) I recamend it. I can relate with these people. You cant always fit in. Just be yourself and let loose like fox and the war paint. YAY
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I didnt think that newt and fox where actually going to be friends but in the end they where wild girls. I loved how verla thought there war paint was cool and then invited them to this awesome writers summer camp. Its cool how verla told them to ask lots of questions and in my opinion it taught them alot about there perants. Though it is sad that newts father drinks alot and then fights with everyone and say that there ideas are stupid and everything. But there really not. I think this book is about the importance of friends and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book and relates so much to my life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can really relate to the characters and the author did a really good job on making the charachters think like kids and not adults like other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is realy interesting i kinda can relate to fox and joan whenever they go to school and they have a hard time fitting in anybody should read this Vvvv
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice easy read but had some good subtext to really make you think. I would recommend this book to everyone. It is very inspiring and wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book help me see myself and my besr friend differently. If I were in the book, I would be Moose. :)
horsejumperGC More than 1 year ago
it was a brillant book about friends and adventure they share
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Tannie More than 1 year ago
There's just something about this book that Is undescribable! It is amazing in ways that I can't even explain! I was at the library one day, and I always have a hard time checking out books. Everone was leaving so I just grabbed the first book I saw and left. It took me two weeks, but finally I got bored and finally opened the book. When I began reading, I thought that it would be a boring book, but by page 5 I loved it and I couldn't stop! It isn't a very plot dramaish book, but it certainly is very interesting! It also holds many writing tips that I use every day!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was way more than I expected. My mom bought me this book for Christmas and I was like okay I'll read it. So I did. The first couple of pages caught my eye and I wanted to read it more and more. I love the rich detail that Pat Murphy used. I could understand everything clearly as she wrote the book. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves to read and even doesn't love to read. I wasn't thrilled about reading at all and when my mom got it for me but I just loved reading it. Great authors like Pat Murphy has done an excellent job at writing these amazing books! I am recommending this book to all of my friends! I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!