Emily Hughes's Wild is the latest children's picture book from Flying Eye Books, the kids' imprint of London's NoBrow, who are fast becoming my favorite kids' publisher, and are seemingly incapable of publishing a dud. Wild is Hughes's debut book, and it tells the story of a nameless feral girl who is reared by the creatures of the woods. The bird teaches her to talk, the bear teaches her to eat, the fox teaches her to play. She is perfectly happy. But then she is discovered by the family of an eminent psychologist, who brings her home to tame and civilize her. This is a lost cause, and makes everyone — especially the girl — miserable. But the story has a happy ending: the girl absolutely destroys her adoptive family's home and escapes back into the woods on the family dog's back, naked as a jaybird and grinning like a fool. Everyone agrees this is for the best.
There's almost no words in this book — the story is told with lush, expressive, hilarious paintings, often in two-page spreads. My daughter loved every one of them, especially the insane, action-packed ones, like where the girl learned to play from the fox, or where she trashed the civilized house. For all the cheerful anarchy in this, there's no real menace or darkness — it's as sweetly beautiful and wild as its protagonist.
Wild is out in the UK now, and comes out in the USA on September 10. Visit the Flying Eye site for more art previews.