by Jane Yolen
In 1920, a missionary in India called the Reverend Singh brought to his orphanage two half-starved children that had been found by villagers in a wolf den carved out of a termite mound. The girls were named Amala and Kamala. Amala died in 1921, but Kamala remained at the orphanage eight more years, where they tried to teach her language and simple human behaviors like wearing clothes, using utensils, walking upright- all things the girls resisted.
Children of the Wolf, Jane Yolen's fictional account of the wolf girls, is told from the viewpoint of a boy who lives at the orphanage. While the other children view the girls with disgust or fear and constantly taunt them, Mohandas is intrigued by them. He tries to understand them and gain their trust. He keeps a diary in secret where unfolds a slow love of words and language. As Mohandas gets closer to Kamala, he tries to coax words out of her, encouraged by the Reverend who hopes the girls will one day speak and tell everyone details of their past with the wolves. But eventually Mohandas realizes that the girls' true nature and abilities do not match up with anyone's assumptions- they are not terrifying demons as the villagers fear, nor sources of hidden information as the Reverend hopes. They are something else altogether. Mohandas keenly observes how everyone reacts differently to the girls, and what that reveals about each person, including himself.
At the end of the book Yolen describes her sources, how much of it is based on historical fact, and how much of it is fictional. (Although if you read the Wiki article I linked to above, you'll find that the historical account may itself be fiction). Children of the Wolf is an intriguing story, just as much about one boy's growth and understanding as it is about the feral children themselves.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 136 pages, 1984
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