I’m trying to find the title of a book I read as a kid, borrowed from a library in the late 1970s. It was a fairly dark story about two brothers left to fend for themselves after losing their remaining family. It’s a survival story, set deep in the woods where their home was, and I think eventually they both die. The last brother, lives on his own for awhile, but eventually dies from an infection from an animal bite or cut? But I’m not positive.

A few other details

  • It was an English language book.
  • I borrowed it from a tiny public library in Newbury, NH.
  • It was a hard cover, fiction novel.
  • I think it would have been in the young adult/teen section since I was probably around 9-11 yo, but rather bleak story for that age range.
  • 2
    Hello and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Please take our tour! To increase the likelihood of an accurate answer, please read the identification-request wiki and edit your question to add further details based on the suggestions there: for example, what language was this in? Where were you geographically located? What about the book's physical dimensions and appearance—cover, illustrations, etc? Thanks!
    – verbose
    Oct 8, 2023 at 6:26
  • 2
    Could you please edit the question to add that info, rather than leaving it in the comments? Thanks.
    – verbose
    Oct 8, 2023 at 6:53
  • "Wild in the World" by John Donovan? (I don't have time to post decent answer now; if someone feels it should be, please feel free to post it).
    – Ayshe
    Oct 17, 2023 at 20:13
  • "Wild in the World" seems to be about a boy and his dog (although the reviews seem to indicate that he had a brother who died in the past, maybe his fault), with the boy eventually dying of pneumonia. Oct 23, 2023 at 11:37
  • Hmm... from a second review, it might be a decent match. I will go ahead and post it. Oct 23, 2023 at 11:38

1 Answer 1


Based on Ayshe's comment, it's possible this is Wild in the World by John Donovan.

Cover of Wild in the World

After an initial desolation that stretches belief, this becomes a natural and gently persuasive story of an inarticulate mountain boy and the animal that preoccupies his last days. At the book's opening there are three Gridleys left from a family of seven brothers and four sisters; the others have died of scarlet fever, rattlesnake bite, fire, childbirth, suicide, and mysterious illnesses attributed to leaving home. By page six Abraham has died of an infected fishhook cut, Amos is fatally kicked by a cow, and only John, the youngest, survives. This is told matter-of-factly and John accepts his multiple bereavement with fatalistic resignation. He never talked much to his brothers anyway; now his thoughts are of getting the chores done, selling apples, maybe buying a pipe. Then John by chance adopts a stray wolf (or maybe it's a dog) and his life changes. He names the animal Son, swims and eats and works with it, nurses it anxiously through a bout with rattlesnake poisoning when John and the reader are sure the dog will die, talks to it in torrents through his increasing delirium, then dies himself of pneumonia. Children who would cry if the animal died will accept the rightness of John's death; Son clearly enlarged the boy's life in a dimension other than time. Though the seemingly gratuitous deaths are a shock at first, their use to underline the value of the friendship results in a quietly convincing affirmation.

While most of the book is only following John and Son, it seems that there are at least two brothers who are alive at the start, one dies of an infection from a cut, and John dies of pneumonia. And it came out in 1971, which would fit your time frame.

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