From Publishers Weekly
The animal residents of the Central Park Children's Zoo are not the only creatures gently scrutinized in Dolnick's charming debut, a light bildungsroman about shoveling goat poop and growing up. Henry Elinsky, helplessly ordinary, has flunked out after his first semester of college and is living at home in Chevy Chase, Md. Besieged by his father's unrelenting optimism, his mother's unhappiness and his uncle's hypersensitivity, Henry joins his older brother in New York City and takes a job as a keeper at the Children's Zoo. Henry's time in the city is a whirlwind of self-discovery: he cleans animal pens, receives the testy treatment from his brother's rich, bitchy girlfriend and realizes his would-be career as a saxophonist isn't all that promising. Henry also revels in his unrequited passion for young aspiring writer Margaret, even though he knows he and Margaret cannot be together. It takes a family crisis and a monumental error of judgment at the zoo to nudge Henry onward. Dolnick can capture in one surprisingly lucid phrase the essence of a situation, though his narrator's benign travails may not resonate with readers not of the 18–25 demographic. This is very much a young man's book; it will be interesting to see what Dolnick does next. (May)
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When Henry Elinsky is asked by the dean to "take some time off" from his freshman year, he briefly returns home to Chevy Chase and a job at his old elementary school. Depressed at being back under the roof of his barely speaking parents, Henry jumps at his older brother David's invitation to join him and his girlfriend in New York for the summer. Henry lands a job in the Central Park Children's Zoo, but the hours are long, and shoveling poop and chopping endless vegetables are not so glamorous. Circumstances improve when Henry meets Margaret, also in New York for the summer. Although she has a boyfriend back home, Margaret and Henry seem to be kindred spirits. She shares personal childhood moments, and Henry shares his quirky zoo world. He not only falls in love but also begins to emerge from his self-absorbed state, becoming more perceptive of those around him. Dolnick's coming-of-age debut sparkles with wit and insightful commentary on the human need for unquestioning devotion--including that offered by our animal companions. Deborah DonovanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved