Author: Eliot Schrefer
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 272
Source of Book: ARC from publisher at ALA
The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.ENDANGERED is one of those books that has a powerful impact, makes you think, and sticks with you long after you've closed the final pages. Full disclosure: I did read ENDANGERED right after I had finished rereading THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN four times as a read aloud for my students, so I was already in the mindset of wanting to protect and save the animals. However, it didn't take me reading very many pages into this book to clearly see why this is a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature. ENDANGERED starts off with meeting Sophie, and from the very beginning pages of being introduced to her, I was already adoring her spunkiness and honesty and intelligence and heart for doing what's right to help others. However, she isn't necessarily able to fully see the big picture, but as she struggles through the events of this story, she has to start thinking more in that way. As she bonds with her bonobo Otto and spends the summer with her mother in Congo, while waiting to go back to her father in the United States, she becomes an even more engaging character. She's very real and very determined to help those she loves.
The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.
When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.
Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.
When the war hits Kinshasa, everything changes for Sophie as her story becomes one of her own survival rather than saving one baby bonobo. At this point Sophie has to grow up very fast if she's going to survive this insurgency. One of the things I liked most about this book was the way Eliot Schrefer deftly handled the honesty of the writing in a way that made me alternatingly cry, cringe, and cheer. I felt like I was right there with Sophie feeling her emotions and I was drained by the time I turned those final pages. Schrefer draws the reader into the story in such subtle ways, and guides the reader through the journey Sophie is on with different "Parts" of her journey to survive. There are various segments of this tale, not just staying in one place, but having to figure out how to save herself and Otto while getting safely to her family. Within this, there is information about bonobos and the conflict that add depth to the story and contextualize it within the larger society. Thanks to an author's note at the end, and a Q&A, it allows the reader to more fully understand how much was fact and where to go for more information.
ENDANGERED was a can't-put-it-down book with an emotional and intelligent story that left me wanting to learn more about bonobos and the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I enjoy books that engage me and leave me thinking, and Eliot Schrefer has balanced that beautifully in this novel.
*Side note for teachers: The picture book FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS will make a logical tie-in to the themes in this story as well.