Walk the Wild Road
When 10-year-old Leo finds two abandoned lambs in a ditch by the road, he knows the danger in rescuing them. Feudalism still holds sway in 1870s Prussia (now Poland) and the lambs belong to Leo’s impoverished family’s landlord, the baron. But his family’s straits are dire, and so Leo risks trying to take them home. He’s caught, whipped, imprisoned, and then surreptitiously freed by a kindly servant to the baron. Now wanted by the law, Leo must flee his home and all he loves.
The baron’s servant has advised Leo to go to America, where he can make his fortune and send back money to help his family. So Leo’s journey begins, a journey that teaches the brave boy about friendship and loss, about the kindness of strangers, the capriciousness of fate, and about how you should absolutely pay attention when your dog won’t have anything to do with a seemingly kindly new friend. My only complaint, a petty one, is a final loss on the last pages of the book, one that in retrospect teaches a good lesson. It hurt, despite being realistic and a good twist, and it left me finishing the book with a philosophical sigh rather than pure Disney-esque uplift. (If they adapt this book for the screen, I guarantee that sentimental American test audiences will not stand for it!)
Hinton is an accomplished and award-winning writer, and this book feels like a classic hero’s tale – a linear, solid, and yet compelling story told completely from Leo’s point of view. We’ve all heard about how difficult it is to get boys to read, but this book should capture their affections. It did mine.