Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice

On the day that twelve-year old Erik Carlson passed his Hunter Safety course, his life changed dramatically. Instead of going hunting with his best friend, Erik learned that his parents, who were both in the Army Reserve, were being deployed to Iraq. Erik was sent to stay with his grandparents in North Dakota. Erik had never been to North Dakota and he hadn't seen his grandparents since he was three-years-old. Now he was flying there alone, unhappy, and slightly scared.

When Erik arrives his grandfather, Big Darrell, seems very angry at something and he doesn't treat Erik with any love or warmth. Upstairs in the house, there is a mysterious, locked bedroom that he is forbidden to enter. Things change when Erik finds a lost and injured bird dog that needs his help. The poor dog has been attacked by a porcupine. Erik and a local veterinarian remove the quills and treat the dog. Big Darrell says the dog can only stay one night but Erik can't bear to give her up.

So Erik and Quill, as he has named the dog, decides to run away from the farm to the surrounding prairie. Looking for supplies he enters the closed bedroom, discovering that it belonged to his grandparents' son, who was a soldier killed in action. Erik takes the shotgun he finds there and he and Quill set off. Erik is determined to life off the land but he is not quite prepared for all the dangers and weather he and Quill find.

Wild Life is a very powerful story about a boy and his family caught up in loss, grief and sacrifice for their country. This is a situation faced by many military families today. The author, Cynthia DeFelice, has written a great adventure story of a boy and a dog; but also reminds us of the challenges faced by soldiers and their families.