This week I'm featuring a middle grade novel that i really enjoyed: The Zoo at the Edge of the World.
I was drawn by the cover and description and wasn't disappointed by the story. The unique POV (from that of a stutterer) and diverse setting made for a fresh twist on the common (and often boring) talking animals scenario.
Genre/Subject (from inside of cover): Human-animal communication, jungle animals, zoos, stuttering, fiction
Author: Eric Kahn Gale
Publication Date: 2014 Page Count: 232
Marlin, a stutterer, can talk smoothly and freely with the jungle animals that populate his father's zoo in South America--until a mysterious man-eating black jaguar, that his father catches and brings home, talks back.
Meatier Summary (from Goodreads):
Marlin is not slow, or mute; what he is is a stutterer, and that makes it impossible for him to convince people otherwise. What he is also is a Rackham: the younger son of the world-famous explorer Ronan Rackham, renowned for his daring exploits in the jungles of South America, taming wild beasts and filling in the blank spaces on the map. Ronan is the owner and proprietor of the Zoo at the Edge of the World, a resort where the well-to-do from all over the globe can come to experience the last bit of the wild left at the end of the nineteenth century. For Ronan, each day is a new opportunity to cast a light into the dark recesses of the world; for Marlin, each day is a struggle: to speak, to communicate, to live up to the lofty expectations that his family name carries. This isn't easy when the only ones who understand him are his father and his pet monkey.
In order to impress a powerful duke who comes to visit the zoo, Marlin's father ventures into the jungle and brings back a mysterious black jaguar, the only one in captivity. Everyone is terrified of it, including Marlin—until one night, when the jaguar confers upon him a powerful gift. Soon, Marlin finds himself with a difficult choice to make and, finally, something to say. If only he can figure out how to say it.
What I liked about it:
- The point of view (POV). A book takes on a whole new meaning when the main character literally cannot speak. He looks at the world in a different way and is much more intellectual than other children his age since his thoughts are trapped inside his head. I thought the author did a good job of making the frustration, shame, and disability very real and vivid for the reader.
- The creativity. The resort is well thought out and interesting. There is a map included at the front of the book, which was well drawn and helpful.
- The animal's dialect. After discovering that he can talk to animals, Marlin has several comical conversations with them. It made me laugh and got me thinking about how animals must view humans.
- The animal's names. A small thing, I know, but i just loved them.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who has ever wanted to go on a jungle safari, or even wondered what happens at the zoo after the gates are shut. Personally, i really enjoyed it. It's adventurous and fresh, and explores the hardships of family, loyalty, and doing what's right.
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