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This is an excellently crafted novel, as one expects from Kenneth Oppel. The three family members--Mum, Dad, and thirteen year old son--are well differentiated and credible, and the strains and delights that develop in the family when the chimpanzee experiment is undertaken in their home are also believable. The matter of how humans treat or mistreat other animals is secondary to human-human relationships, and the book is not at all preachy. It's a complex, imaginative and engaging story that is uplifting, and ideally suited to a boy reader of thirteen and up.
An engaging read. Written from the perspective of a 14 year old, the offspring of two academics who want to teach a chimp sign language. Easy to relate to and the plot kept us turning the pages. A work of fiction that did not drown in fantasy like so much other young adult literature.
Bens family were moving to Victoria, the house was in the country and Bens bedroom was big, there was a room set up for the new baby when mother joined them, the removal van arrived and as they finished unloading mum walked in with a baby chimp, we had moved here for a purpose we were going to teach the chimp to talk, they called him Zan, a local boy called Tim made friends with Ben, after a week Ben got to hold Zan, Zan was to learn to sign straight away, Ben was to go to Windemere school with the son of his fathers boss David, Davids friends Hugh and Evan were introduced, Ben was 14yrs, Zan was very naughty at first, Ben liked Davids sister Jen, Zan was very ill and put on a drip, students from the university were brought in to help with Zan
Zan recovered, Zan was signing well and would often ask for a hug from Ben, Times Magazine were to do an article, Bens parents paid Ben for the time he spent with Zan, Zan loved to wash up, a grant to help with costs was turned down, they needed quicker results, Zan was to be strapped to a chair for part of the day, he hated it and Ben and one of the students Peter didn't like it, Zan bites Ryan another student but it is not Zans fault, Ryan was treating him badly, the chair was taken away, a man known as Jaworsky arrived to work with Zan a speech specialist, Jaworsky decided Zan was only mimicking and the project was to be closed down and Zan sold, Ben considered Zan his brother and was very upset
Zan was sold to a chimp sanctuary, Zan had never seen another chimp, Peter one of the students went with him, they were assured that Zan would be treated well but this was soon to be proved lies, Peter found a letter saying Zan and two other chimps had been sold for medical experiments, Ben decided to steal Zan and from here you must read on
My verdict, I liked this book, well written and a good story
I just recommended Kenneth Oppel's new children's book, Half Brother, to my 86 year-old grandmother. It is that good.
I knew it must be good when I heard that Violet got in trouble at school for reading too much. At home I was envious of her complete absorption in the book, but also excited because I knew I would get to read it next. I asked her, "Is it `Hunger-Games-Good'?" She just grunted and waved me off. "Violet if you don't answer me I'm going to take the book away." She looked up at me and said, "Oh yeah, it's good. Can I just please read to the end of this chapter?"
Later she told me she loved it because it made her feel like she was the main character, thirteen year-old Ben. When I got my turn, I felt the same way. Now I'm curious if my grandmother will feel likewise. Any book that can make a ten-year old girl, a forty-year old mother, and an eighty-six-year old great-grandmother feel like a thirteen year-old boy is impressive.
There are stories that are compelling, and there are books that are insightful and complex. Half Brother is a masterpiece that combines the best of both. A page-turner for sure, we are dropped into a world of being new in junior high school while having a stormy relationship with a driven father. Just the thought of it makes most grown-ups cringe. Add on top of that the complexity of developing a close bond with a species so near to our own, but still clearly animal - and you have one of the best children's books I have ever read.
I would not recommend this book to children younger than ten years old. The complexity of relationships might be harder for younger children to grasp, and there are some sexual references. The sexual references are not explicit, and they are appropriate to what a modest thirteen year-old boy would say and experience but some parents might be uncomfortable with younger children reading them. This is one of those books that would be a pleasure to read so you can judge for yourself. - Jessica
What an amazing story. Words fail me, unlike this remarkable author!
However, the magic of this book is perhaps not so much in the words used but in what is left unsaid. People of all ages can find something worthwhile in this book and most importantly be challenged.
For me, the prevailing theme was determinism/freewill. Is chemistry the 'signalman' of our relationships; unpredictably connecting and disconnecting us from the next person? What is to be said of family; surely their successes, malfunctions and destructions are founded upon more than just genetic similarities? Finally, Half Brother evokes unsettling questions concerning the rights and responsibilities of family and animals. Commendably, Oppel raises profound moral questions but lets the reader make up their own mind.
A brilliant book which masterfully creates intellectual turmoil. I found an emotional rollercoaster. Read it and see what you discover!
I don't usually write reviews but this book was so amazing, I feel compelled. Not only is it a page turner, it's an emotional rollercoaster, which left me crying my eyes out on several occasions. It raises serious issues and leaves you considering all angles, yet remains extremely readable. This is the best book I've read in a long time.