Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Endangered!

 Welcome to Day 5 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge here at Reading on the F Train. Today's topic is Endangered by Eliot Schrefer!

This is another Cybils finalist that I haven't discussed on the blog: 

Endangered Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hi all,

Ok, friends, it’s about to get controversial up in here. Let me start with the positive. I learned a lot reading this book. I would completely love to teach it in conjunction with a world history class. I rooted for Sophie and Otto (but I was glad her mother made clear why buying a bonobo is bad to begin with; it's a complicated moral situation.) By the last third of the book, I found it impossible to put down because I was so invested in the outcome of Sophie and Otto's story. And yeah, I definitely teared up in the final chapter. I'm not a monster.

But despite all that, for most of the story, I struggled to really connect and get swept away. I think I figured out why just after Sophie, in her grueling and lengthy trek toward her mother through a war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, parted ways with one of the few humans she actually speaks to: for long stretches of the book, there is very little dialogue. In those sections especially, it felt a little like memoirs sometimes do: the things that are happening are so intense that you have to be interested, on the one hand, but on the other hand, the things that are happening are not always described with the same level of careful detail that makes me get totally engrossed in a story.. I can see some students tuning out entirely, faced with page after page of Sophie's thoughts as she goes for days and weeks with only bonobos as her companions. (These would probably be the same students who can’t stand Hatchet, a book that fascinated me as a kid but when I re-read it as an adult I was not as excited about.) The people she met along the way really stand out in my head, probably because the dialogue felt like it was drawn with a much finer point than the rest of the book.

This book will definitely appeal to some readers: it is a harrowing survival story, and it gives a detailed and fascinating picture of the social structures of bonobo society (and how they can parallel our own.) Sophie’s insistence on staying with Otto, an insecure young bonobo who’s bonded with her, will resonate with many animal lovers. I think this is just a question of a book not being quite my cup of tea, although I’m glad it’s out there. (And seriously, global history teachers: get on this one!)

I was provided with a free review copy for Cybils judging purposes.

View all my reviews


  1. Am I catching on correctly? You're a teacher? What grade to you teach? Are most of your reviews YA or?

    1. I am--I teach high school, and I do mostly read and review YA these days. I manage to get the occasional adult title in as well, but it's YA that calls to me the most.

  2. I haven't heard about this one before. I think, like you, I would think this wasn't really my cup of tea. I'm not really big on books with so little dialogue. (Which is a pitfall I sometimes catch myself falling into in my own writing.) I think it's great that books covering these kinds of topics are out there, though. :)


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