Cover image for The wild boy
The wild boy
Gerstein, Mordicai.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.
Physical Description:
39 pages : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Relates the story of a boy who grew up like a wild animal in the forests of France and was later captured and studied by doctors in Paris, but never became completely civilized.
General Note:
"Based on the true story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron."

"Frances Foster books."
Reading Level:
530 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.0 0.5 36627.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.5 3 Quiz: 21497 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN372 .G47 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area
GN372 .G47 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GN372 .G47 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Once there was a boy who lived in the mountain forests of southern France. He lived completely alone, without mother, father, or friends. He didn't know what a mother or father was. He was naked. He didn't know what clothes were. He didn't know he was a boy, or even a person. He didn't know what people were. He was completely wild. In simple prose and an abundance of sharp, vivid illustrations that capture the energy of youth, this extraordinarily touching picture book brings to life the child who was Victor in a way that will delight and engage young readers.

Author Notes

Mordicai Gerstein was born in Los Angeles, California in 1935. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute in California. He designed and directed animated films for twenty-five years. In 1970, he met author Elizabeth Levy, who asked him to illustrate her children's book Something Queer Is Going On. He has illustrated all of the books in her Something Queer series. He decided to try his hand at writing. His first picture book, Arnold of the Ducks, was published in 1980 and adapted into an animated film. He has also retold many ancient religious stories, such as that of Jonah in his book, Jonah and the Two Great Fish. He has won many awards including 2 CINE Golden Eagle Awards from the International Film and Television Festival of New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 6-8, older for reading alone. In the year 1800, an authentic wild child was captured near the village of Saint-Sernin in the south of France. How the boy had survived, naked and alone in the forest, remains a mystery to this day. More to the point: when his case continued to baffle leading scientists of the day, the boy was declared hopelessly retarded and remanded to an institution. There, he caught the eye and imagination of a young doctor named Jean-Marc Itard, who adopted the child and named him Victor. Inspired by both the historical case and Francois Truffaut's 1970 movie, The Wild Child, Gerstein has written and illustrated a haunting and sometimes heartbreaking version. Cinematic in the layout and design of its beautifully colored illustrations, The Wild Boy is masterful in capturing Victor's passionate love for the wilderness and contrasting it with the hideous bleakness of the "civilized" existence he must endure until his adoption by Itard. Gerstein's prose finds power in its simplicity and emotional resonance in its declarative understatement: "He loved the icy water from the mountain streams and drank with his chin touching the mossy rocks." Meanwhile, the narrative strength and energy of the illustrations expand the inherent drama of Victor's situation. Together, Gerstein's text and pictures work to create an unforgettable story that engages the empathy of readers while stimulating their imaginations. Gerstein's novel about Victor is reviewed in the Older Readers section in this issue. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)0374384312Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nature and civilization collide in this thought-provoking picture book based on the story of a boy discovered living alone in the mountain forests of southern France in 1800. Hunters are first to see the boy scampering in the woods, where he had survived on plants and berries and the icy mountain-stream water. Captured, the boy is later brought to Paris's Institute for Deaf-Mutes, where experts test and examine him, and finally determine that he is "hopeless." Happily, one doctor thinks otherwise and welcomes the boy into his home, teaching him skills and caring for him. "He will never learn to speak," the doctor eventually realizes. "He was alone in the silent woods too long. But he has learned to have feelings, and they can be hurt." Gerstein's (The Story of May) detailed and informative text clearly reflects a wealth of research; he is simultaneously publishing a novel, Victor, on the same subject (reviewed below). The smoothly paced writing sustains a mysterious and sometimes melancholy tone, in keeping with its subject matter. In loose-lined panel illustrations, Gerstein conveys an arc of emotions. He depicts the unrestrained joy of the boy cavorting nude in his natural surroundings, while scenes of capture are suitably darkened. Ultimately, the boy's home life in Paris appears warm and bright. Young readers will be fascinated, perhaps even spurred to further investigate the facts behind the story. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-In 1800, a preadolescent boy was found wandering in the forests near Saint-Sernin in southern France. This "feral" or wild child, who had somehow survived without human contact for years, became the object of intense study by French experts who labeled him as hopelessly retarded when they failed to communicate with him. However, a young doctor named Jean-Marc Itard was intrigued by the boy and took him into his home where they worked together for several years. Itard's careful observations and sensitive teaching allowed Victor, as he was named, to learn something of civilized life, although he never learned to talk. Gerstein has built The Wild Boy around these details and imagined Victor's life with great sympathy. The illustrations, executed in textured paint strokes and rough, crosshatched lines, evoke the untamed freedom of a child who lives purely for himself. The page design heightens the emotional tension and moves the story forward. Bright colors convey Victor's joyous connection to his natural world while a darker palette shows him in captivity. Softer hues portray the warmth of the Itard household but the overall blue tones evoke Victor's lost innocence and the human potential that was never realized. Children will be fascinated with this true-life survival tale and intrigued by the human need for socialization and interaction.-Barbara Kiefer, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.