Dundurn Press, 2010
Eleven-year-old Danny and nineteen-year-old Wendy think their friendship is only about looking after the baby raccoons Danny has rescued. But when a hold-up upsets Wendy so much that she can hardly stand to be around people, she leaves her bank job, retreats to a farm, and surrounds herself with injured and orphaned wildlife. Danny, neglected at home and considered weird in a town where other boys are into hunting, finds peace on the farm, too, plus excitement as he and Wendy adopt ever more exotic animals: bobcats, llamas, a serval, an ocelot, and a blind lynx. Over the three-year course of the story they develop a bond that goes beyond care of the animals to caring for each other. In the end, Danny, by then fourteen, saves Wendy's life and she in a sense saves his. The story weaves in practical steps that can be followed by young people who dream of doing wildlife rescue work, to help them prepare for such a future.
Rosa Jordan has incorporated into this, her fourth novel for young readers, authentic animal tales gleaned from her wildlife rescue work in North and South America. She grew up in the Florida Everglades, became a Canadian citizen long ago, and lives with her husband Derek in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia.
from Defining Canada
Tell us about your book.
Wild Spirits is the story of a young teen boy, Danny, and an older teen girl, Wendy whose friendship begins when Danny asks Wendy for help in caring for two baby raccoons. Danny has a rough home life and has no friends his own age because this is a town where the boys are heavy into hunting and he isn’t. He only wants to protect wildlife, not kill it.
Wendy works at a bank but has always looked after injured and orphaned wildlife, so she knows a lot about it. What Wendy doesn’t know how to do is keep herself safe after a bank holdup, when the criminals get away and start making threatening phone calls, saying they’ll hurt her if she tells the police anything about them (which she already has.) She gets so scared that she can hardly stand to be around anyone she doesn’t know. She quits her job and, out on the farm where she lives, starts taking in more and more exotic animals. Danny hangs out at the farm, too, helping Wendy look after the exotic animals she collects–everything from fawns to bobcats. Danny begins to develop the skills he needs for a career in working with exotic animals, which is what he wants to do when he finishes school. What Wendy gets out of helping Danny is a true friend, a boy whom she first thinks of as “just a kid” but who, when the criminals finally do come after her, saves her life.
How did you come up with the idea for this work?
I have been involved in trying to protect exotic animals for many years, mainly through creating a sanctuary for wildcats in the rainforest of South America. Then I met a young woman in the US who had set up a sanctuary on her farm in order to take in orphaned or injured wild animals that for one reason or another could not go back to the wild.
She also took in exotic animals that had been raised as “pets” but whose owners then dumped them because they did not turn out to be good pets after all. Because they were raised in captivity, these animals could never return to the wild. The more of this woman’s stories I heard, the more I wanted to write a book about her animal adventures.
Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.
I think the main theme is that older teens can play an important role in the lives of younger teens by helping the younger ones do things that they probably couldn’t manage on their own, either because they don’t have enough support from the grownups in their life or because they just don’t know who to ask or who to trust with their dreams. The story also makes the point that this kind of friendship is not a one-way street, because the younger ones don’t stay little for long, and they may soon be in a position to help the person who has been helping them.
I also wanted to show how anybody who wants to work with wildlife conservation might go about it–how they can start preparing themselves as young as, say, eleven years old, and what more they can learn as they get older, so that by the time they finish school they really do have a shot at working with wildlife.
Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?
I never thought about a specific age group when I wrote Wild Spirits.
These were ideas I wanted to share with young people of any age who are beginning to think seriously about doing something to make the world a better place–especially those who want to know what they personally can do to help protect and save animals.
How did you research your book?
I got a few facts from the internet, and a lot from my daughter, who is a veterinarian. But most of the information in the book came from interviews with a woman in the US who runs the wildlife sanctuary I mentioned. The thing about stories is that whether they are fiction or non-fiction, almost all of them contain some truth and some made-up stuff. Although this is a fictional story, most of the animal stories are things that really happened–even the most unbelievable ones, like the bobcat who always wanted to get in the refrigerator and the llamas who kept breaking out and terrorizing the postman.
Spirits’ Entertains, Informs
Review by Jim Bailey
Trail Daily Times
Wild Spirits is a quiet, beautiful book. I was drawn in instantly, and I have to say this is one of my favorite books that has ever been sent to me for review.
Wild Spirits takes place in rural Arkansas, where we meet Wendy, a nineteen year old bank teller, and her new young friend Danny. They're drawn together after a traumatic bank robbery leaves Wendy wary of people. Danny was already wary of people, he's bullied by kids in town, and his family life isn't anything to write home about.
The bulk of the action in Wild Spirits takes place a few years after Danny and Wendy meet. Wendy is married to a policeman named Kyle, and Danny is collecting cans and doing odd jobs to avoid his horrible home life. They come together to help care for wounded wild life, and in turn, care for each other.
I learned so much about animals through this book, as Wendy cares from everything from lynxes to llamas. Caring for wounded animals gives Wendy's life purpose, and I have to admire the sacrifices that Wendy and her husband make in order to do so. The animals are often a humorous element in the book, as several of them have their own distinct personalities!
Wendy's life is a happy one until those bank robbers make a reappearance. Still, even after that, Wendy refuses to become a prisoner in her own home. She's scared, but she goes on with her life. Wendy is a strong young woman, and throughout the course of the book, Danny finds his own strength.
My only issue with this book is that the ending was lacking the tension I had been hoping for. Other than that, I thought this book was a wonderful, quick read. If you're an animal lover looking for something a bit different to read, or are looking for a wonderful book for your children to read, I highly recommend Wild Spirits! 4/5 stars.