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18 April 2015

Endangered

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is the story of one girl and one rescued bonobo surviving a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sophie is the daughter of an American father and a Congolese mother. She lived in DR Congo until her parents split up. Now she attends school in the United States and spends summers in Congo with her mother just outside of the capital of Kinshasa. Her mother runs a bonobo rescue.

This year when Sohpie arrives in Congo, she sees a man selling a bonobo. While the sanctuary has a policy to never buy bonobos because it will help continue the cycle of violence toward the apes, Sophie knows that by the time the authorities arrive the man will have moved on. So she gives him the money in her pocket and takes the young ape.

Now Sophie must act as a surrogate mother for the bonobo she has named Otto. She will have to be with him at all times as bonobos need emotional support as much as nutrition.

A few days later, her mother has left to go up river and release a few adult bonobos and Sophie is staying at the rescue. The radio announces that the President has been killed and rebels are taking over the capital. All foreigners are being collected to be put on United Nations planes and flown to safety, but Sophie cannot leave Otto.

What follows is the story of war and survival and of love as Sophie and Otto try their best to survive in a world of chaos. Her only hope it to somehow make it a couple hundred miles to where she hopes her mother is safe from the fighting.

Schrefer has written a great novel that explores both life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with untold wealth in minerals and no stable government, and bonobos as a species - a gentle and endangered great ape. This is a wonderful book that was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Schrefer, Eliot. (2012). Endangered. New York: Scholastic.

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