Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: Half Brother

I used to spend Saturday mornings with my mom and sister at the Saint Louis Zoo in the Jungle of the Apes/Fragile Forest.  Even though glass separated us from the apes, my sister raced with one of the chimps, Jimi, and I had my gorilla "boyfriend", the late Juma.  These moments where it was just the apes and us, I will always treasure.

Remembering times like this, I picked up Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel and began the journey of Ben and Zan in this young adult book.  The story focuses on Ben and his families move across Canada, so that his father (a fairly well-known professor) can begin a new, groundbreaking study for the 1960s.  The study involves cross-fostering a chimpanzee named Zan and teaching him language utilizing ASL.  Not only does Ben have to adjust to this lifestyle change, he is the new kid at a prestigious private school where he doesn't believe he is smart enough to be, and negotiate the trials of having a major crush. 

At first, Ben wants nothing to do with Zan.  His parents hope he will come to think of Zan as a little brother.  This does happen and it is enjoyable to read.  Its amazing to read how these two grew in understanding of each other. Ben becomes closer with Zan then he does his own father.
The book does not sugar-coat having a chimp in the household. There are issues with research students, neighbors, and media.

Ben makes tough choices and shows great courage towards the end of the book.  I began crying at the end because of how touching the hope was in Ben.

Link to discussion guide.

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