The deer turned quickly and froze, its sleek, wild head balancing the massive crown of horns with amazing ease.
–Zilpha Keatley Snyder - A Fabulous Create - c. 1981, 2014
James Fielding was not at all happy when his parents decided to spend the summer in “the wilderness”, his plans had included girls and learning to talk to them, not nature. But once he got over his stubbornness he discovered that he enjoyed the wild. The landscape, the animals. And especially one deer, a magnificent stag that he comes across in a hidden valley, and over time, as he brings it food, grows accustomed to James’ presence. Not only does it tolerate him, it comes to greet him.
And then he meets Diane, a vision in a pink bikini, and suddenly he learns that maybe his summer plans to talk to girls might come to fruition after all.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote over 40 books in her lifetime, 3 of which were named as Newberry Honor books, so I’m guessing that quite a few Americans might have heard of her, or read her books? I’d never come across her before this book, but I can certainly see why she was an award winning author.
It is, in many ways, a very typical “coming of age” story; boy meets girl and all that goes along with that. But it is also very well written, and it is very affecting.
James thinks of himself as very smart, smarter than he really is. And although the book is told from his POV, we can still see how much he is missing out, all the clues he isn’t picking up on, or maybe he is just choosing to ignore them.
At times it is a tad on the cliched side, and James certainly has some unflattering opinions of girls at times. But he is a teenage boy, and I think that Snyder does enough to show the reader that this is James’ opinion, and that he is often very wrong about the world.
Taking a quick look through the goodreads reviews I have to say I was amused by all the people commenting about the sexual aspects of the book. James is a 15 year old boy, and this is about his summer falling in love, so yeah, its going to come up. But nothing is ever described, and I think that even if younger children read it they won’t pick up on certain aspects that some adults might object to. Also, do none of these people remember being young themselves? Honestly, there is nothing wrong with anything in this book, stop being so prudish!