Sunday, November 11, 2018

Endangered

True confession: I don't love animal books. Those that I have read have been through coercion: as part of the curriculum or a student wanted me to read them. I even dove into Endangered by Eliot Shrefer because he will be the visiting author in my class later this year. Thank goodness I did because this was excellent and made me eat my words. After finishing, I immediately added the next three books in the series to my To Be Read list. No wonder it was a finalist for the National Book Award.

For all her life, Sophie's mother has consistently prioritized the bonobo sanctuary she runs in the Congo over her family life, which is why Sophie spends most of the year in Miami with her father. Still, summer is a time for them to connect at the sanctuary, and Sophie's connection grows when she adopts a baby bonobo named Otto. Revolution breaks out in the country and Sophie and Otto are thrust into the jungle, trying to survive and reunite with Sophie's mother.

Endangered was intense; I kept wanting to find out what would happen next and rearranged my schedule to have more reading time.  There was so much to draw me in: the feeling of foreboding that anything could go wrong in the political conflict, the attachment I felt for the human and primate characters, and the pleasure of learning more about bonobos and the Congo. While I learned a lot, the novel never felt overly didactic or preachy. The story wrapped up nicely (with me bracing myself for tragedy until the last page) and I wondered how there could possibly be three more books in the series. Each book is a separate story about a different primate, so I am eager to read and learn more, as well as pepper Eliot Shrefer with questions when he visits our class.

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