Published just this year, A New Kind of Wild is a delightful, imaginative picture book. Inspired by her father’s stories of growing up in Puerto Rico, author and illustrator Zara González Hoang has given readers a luminous piece of Puerto Rican Kid Lit. I haven’t yet had the chance to give this book to my nieces and nephews, but rest assured that it is already on the Christmas shopping list.
Ren lives in “a little white house at the edge of el Yunque,” Puerto Rico’s rain forest (and the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System). Living so near such a wild place fills Ren’s days with magic, sparking his imagination and his sense of wonder. He loves his home.
But one day he has to leave. And Ren is now in a concrete city, where to his eyes everything is noisy and dirty and full of people. There is no magic there for him, no wild. And he is lonely.
Ava lives upstairs from Ren. For her, the city is full of bustle and energy and people with whom she can spend time. Ava and Ren meet for the first time on their apartment building’s front stoop, and once she hears Ren doesn’t think the city is for him, she sets out to help him love it like she does.
Will Ren see what Ava loves about the city? And can Ren make Ava understand just what is so special about the home he left behind? This is a lovely book about the power of friendship, and how a new friend can make you feel a lot less alone in a new place. It is also a book about seeing things from another’s perspective, and taking the time to listen to, and empathize with, another person when they are sharing their point-of-view.
There are even opportunities for STEAM learning in this book, as it can readily lend itself to an unit on rain forests. The city scenes can also be used in discussions about public art, specifically murals. And of course, if you are looking for a book that addresses the very real pain of leaving a home you love for a new one which seems to not quite fit, this is a perfect and poignant choice.
Written and Illustrated by Zara González Hoang
2020, Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.