The Last Wild by Piers Torday

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The Last Wild by Piers Torday

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Kester hasn't spoken since his mother died, and he's been locked away in the dreary, soulless Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children. He's not sure why he's there, or why his father never visits, but when a cockroach starts talking to him, he suspects it's probably because he's gone mad.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 328 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781780878287

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Shortlisted for Waterstone's Best Fiction for 5-12s 2014

The animals and the plants have all died, killed by the red-eye: only insects are immune. And the humans have all retreated to the Island, terrified that they too will catch the horrible disease. As there is nothing else to eat they live on formula, a sort of bright pink gruel which, no matter what they call it, always tastes of prawn cocktail crisps. The gloop is made by Factorium, the world's biggest food company, which has gradually taken over the running of the whole Island, including schools, hospitals and eventually the government itself.

Kester is twelve and skinny, and the other kids at the academy bully him because he never makes a sound. It's not easy being considered a freak in a place which specialises in them, and Kester is so lonely he breaks the rules by sharing his gloop with a cockroach. A cockroach which, on one astonishing day, starts talking to him. At first he decides the whole thing is impossible — well, who wouldn't? — but then a spider joins in. But it's only when a huge flock of pigeons smash the windows of his room and carry him away from the academy and into the quarantined zone that he begins to suspect he hasn't lost his marbles: this thing is really happening.

He is flown to a secret place in the forest where a few surviving animals eke out a meagre existence, and he is told he must find his father, a well-known and highly skilled scientist. Kester's job is to persuade him to find a cure for the virus. Then begins a most unusual journey, involving a stag, a wolf cub, a very bossy cockroach called the General and a dancing harvest mouse. After everything else that's happened, Kester finds he isn't even surprised by the cheerful little rodent, which assures him that his kind have over forty-six thousand dances, each one designed to celebrate a different occasion.

Kester and his companions travel across the land in search of his father, meeting some bad humans, some who are bewildered, frightened and angry, and at least one good one on the way. The journey is marked, as these quests often are, by fear and pain, hunger and loss, but also by nobility, affection, courage and a sweet, gentle humour, largely centring on a white pigeon which is more bird-brained than the rest of his feathered friends put together.

The quest-journey is not an unusual theme in literature for both adults and children, and the canny reader will guess some of the plotlines before they are revealed. But to be bothered by that would be to miss the point. This story is about the relationship between the travelling companions, and about how a young boy grows in maturity as he learns to shoulder an extraordinary destiny. It has as dark side, as humanity is shown in all its greed and destructiveness, but most of all this is a charming tale, based on an original and intriguing premise and with more than a whiff of magic about it.

Another couple of good stories involving animals which deal with issues of bereavement and loss without wallowing in pathos are Doglands by Tim Willocks and Flyaway by Lucy Christopher. We also have a review of The Lost Magician by Piers Torday.

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Buy The Last Wild by Piers Torday at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Wild by Piers Torday at


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