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Book Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Sophie is on her way to spend the summer with her Congolese mother at the bonobo sanctuary she runs.  When Sophie rescues a sick baby bonobo from a trafficker, her mother is unhappy about Sophie’s method of procuring it but clearly pleased at Sophie’s work to bond with the baby.  While Sophie is still in the Congo, war breaks out, and Sophie and Otto, her baby bonobo must flee the militants and locate her mother in the northern part of the country.

Schrefer’s book was nominated for the National Book Award this year, and upon opening the book’s pages, it’s immediately clear why.  This well-researched, fast-paced adventure novel should appeal to teens and adults alike.  Realistic characters, gripping situations, and excellent writing set this adventure novel apart from others in the genre.

Schrefer sets the tone and pace early on in the book, and once Sophie is fully ensconced in the world of the bonobos, he doesn’t let up.  The fast plotting, suspenseful story, and rising action should keep even the most restless reader glued to the page.  All of this is done masterfully, as Schrefer also inhabits the pages with a great deal of science and information about bonobos.  Despite all this, the novel is never didactic or preachy.

There are moments that will strain credulity for the more cynical readers, but these are few and far between.  For the most part, this is a novel that is gripping, compelling, and moving.  Readers will be informed and inspired by what takes place between the pages of Endangered.  Definitely a standout read of 2012.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer. Scholastic: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils Round 1 Panel.