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The Zoo at the Edge of the World

Review

The Zoo at the Edge of the World

For Marlin, life in his family's remote zoo resort in Guyana can be good or bad. As a stutterer, he gets mercilessly teased by his older brother, patronized by his adventurer father and ignored or insulted by the rich guests and native staff of the zoo. But when he's alone with the animals, Marlin can chat freely --- not that they ever respond.

Then one day his father, the great Roland Rackham, returns to the resort with a new and dangerous beast. The mysterious black jaguar immediately has an effect on The Zoo at the Edge of the World, and particularly on Marlin. But then one night Marlin gets too close to the jaguar. He's sure he's going to die, but instead the jaguar gives Marlin a gift; he can speak to animals. Now with the ability to hear what the animals have to say, Marlin isn't so sure his family's zoo is the best place for them to live. But can he stand up to his brother and father? Can he do what's right for the animals in the zoo?

What I particularly liked about the book was that it isn't black and white. Characters aren't good or evil; they are complicated with complicated sets of morals.

It was eye opening to read a story like this with a boy with a stutter. Ordinarily a character with a disability like that might be relegated to a melodrama rather than a fantasy adventure. It was refreshing to see Marlin's stutter neither tossed under the rug nor obsessed over. The stutter was just one part of his character. I could feel his frustration when he couldn't talk back to his horrible brother or rude guests, but I could also tell he didn't want his stutter to define him. And it certainly didn't. Marlin was many things throughout the book. He was brave and cowardly, ruthless and kind, and he proved himself to be much stronger willed than anyone in his family could have imagined.

What I particularly liked about the book was that it isn't black and white. Characters aren't good or evil; they are complicated with complicated sets of morals. Even the animals are characterized extraordinarily well, with the jaguar being a standout. He is shifty and has his own motives, but he seems to genuinely care for Marlin. Marlin's father, on the other hand, is shown to have a darker side, despite appearances as the golden explorer. The only character who isn't at least a little morally ambiguous is Marlin's brother; he just seemed mean for the sake of being mean.

This book moves very quickly with short chapters that make it easy to read much more than you intended. It was quite a page-turner at the end, and I honestly couldn't tell where the story was headed. It was a wild ride, and a lot of fun.

Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor on September 3, 2014

The Zoo at the Edge of the World
by Eric Kahn Gale

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2014
  • Genres: Children's
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0062125168
  • ISBN-13: 9780062125163