When Boy, a lonely child, comes across a child in the wood who calls himself Wild Boy and who tells him that he is Boy’s long-lost brother, Boy brings him home where, soon after, Boy’s parents discover that Wild Boy is uncontrollable and a very bad influence on their son.
From Haley (Mountain Jack Tales, 1992, etc.), an engrossing story, subtitled “A Very Old Cherokee Tale,” complete with author’s note, that mirrors the Christian creation myth and explains how labor came into the world. The first family–Kanati the First Hunter, Selu the Corn Mother, and Boy–live an idyllic life until Boy gets lonely. His reflection in a pool of water becomes Wild Boy, his untamed alter ego and trouble-making playmate. They spy on their father’s hunting secrets, but when they try to hunt, all the animals escape from the cave, leading the boys into a life-long search for them. When they find out where their mother gets corn and beans, she destroys the source, and they are forced to grow their own food. The transgression of moral authority and the dual nature of existence are themes which have echoes throughout western literature; this Cherokee legend confirms the universality of human nature. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Kirkus Review
Since that time, people have had to hunt for their meat, plant their vegetables, and work in this world.” Although this may sound startlingly like the banishment of a certain First Couple, “two bad boys” are to blame for this human condition, according to Haley’s well-told version of a Cherokee tale. In the beginning of time, a boy’s reflection in a pond springs to life. This new brother, Wild Boy, tempts the formerly obedient Boy into mischief. They discover the cave of animals from which their father sparingly hunts; they accidentally release all the animals. They find the hut from which their mother gathers abundant vegetables; they try to take some and the hut vanishes. Thereafter they and their progeny must hunt and farm vegetables to survive. Caldecott Medalist Haley’s (A Story, A Story) retelling is crystal-clear, conscientiously researched and handsomely illustrated in earth-toned acrylics. Her careful compositions, essentially realistic but lightly infused with mysticism, subtly evoke a paradise lost. Publishers Weekly
In the Cherokee version of Eden, First Hunter, Corn Mother, and their son enjoy food without working for it. Boy is lonely, and one day sees another child beneath the surface of the river looking up at him. Each morning, Wild Boy comes out of the river to play; eventually Boy’s parents capture him and take him home. They cannot tame him, however. The youngsters’ mischief escalates until they discover the sources of their family’s meat and corn and cause them to vanish. The boys feel hunger, their parents depart, and their willful independence compels them?and all their descendants?to work for their food. Like Genesis, this tale acknowledges the punishing aspect of labor, the human tendency to curiosity and meddling, and the adolescent desire for self-sufficiency. Here, however, the ungovernable impulse to follow one’s own will is recognized as a wild, undomesticated side of the self: Freud’s id anticipated. Haley’s illustrations, each bordered by a narrow geometric band, depict the figures with strongly modeled forms. Despite the stylized treatment of certain animals and plants, the overall effect is realistic. The Cherokee have appropriately ethnic features, and the few objects (baskets, tools, ornaments) around them convey a sense of their culture. Against a golden background, touches of teal and green stand out. The presentation is culturally specific, but the story’s themes have a universal and timeless resonance. School Library Journal