Monday, September 6, 2010

Ending Summer with a Bang

If you read my last entry, you know that I ended it by feeling a little disappointed that I had not read enough books that I truly loved this past summer. Thank goodness that I finished the summer with a great read--so great that I can't wait to talk about it.

Many people have enjoyed Silverwing, others in that series about bats, and various other titles by Kenneth Oppel. Now Oppel has a very different new book. Half Brother takes place in the 1970s when interest in human relationships with other species was growing. (Think of Koko and her kitten or the chimps that went into space.) At that same time of protest about many things there were the beginnings of animal activism, protesting testing on animals. Ben Tomlin, the narrator of this book, is thrown into the middle of all of this at age 13 when his family brings home a baby chimpanzee which they hope to teach to use sign language. If that is not unsettling enough, Ben has had to move across the country from Toronto to Vancouver where his father, a psychologist, will now be working. He is put in a private middle school and works to makes friends, especially with the very cute daughter of his dad's new boss. So there is some good old fashioned love interest and teen angst in this book. It offers a nice balance to the odd life that Ben lives with a chimp for a baby brother. He and his dad soon disagree about what role Zan, the chimp, has in the world. Is Zan a little brother or science experiment?

There is much here to enjoy. The writing is good and will tug at the heartstrings of all but the most jaded amongst us while offering up difficult questions to ponder about the importance of scientific investigation as well as the importance of keeping humans humane. I highly recommend this book to middle school readers and their older siblings and parents, too.

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