- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: HarperTrophy (Sept. 27 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1554686113
- ISBN-13: 978-1554686117
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Half Brother Paperback – Sep 27 2011
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Part science lesson, part animal rights crusade, part morality tale, part coming of age story, Half Brother is a departure from bestselling author Kenneth Oppel’s better-known fictional worlds of flying ships and bats. All the same, it contains everything young readers could want: a teenage protagonist, an intriguing story, multiple plot twists, and even a cuddly baby chimp.
Ben Tomlin is the 13-year-old son of a behavioural scientist conducting a groundbreaking experiment to see if chimpanzees can learn human languages. Enter Zan, a newborn chimp the Tomlins raise as a human and teach to communicate using American sign language. The experiment proves exceedingly successful, and Ben grows to love Zan and even consider him a brother.
The trouble begins when the experiment loses funding. While Ben and his mother want to keep Zan, Ben’s father views him merely as a test subject. The family must decide whether or not to give Zan up to an uncertain and possibly perilous future.
Half Brother poses some thorny ethical questions. What makes a living being a “person”? Is it right to use animals in human experiments? What is language, and can a common understanding make humans and animals equals?
These questions are the novel’s best attributes, though they are diminished somewhat because their mouthpiece, Ben, is a two-dimensional character who stands as the book’s conscience. They are also occasionally obscured by a subplot involving Ben’s crush on a classmate, which veers into cliché and resolves with a whimper. Thankfully, Zan is the novel’s heart, and is effectively contrasted with Ben’s clinical, emotionally aloof father. This baby chimp will elicit laughs and even a few tears.
Even as it entertains, Half Brother leaves readers with plenty to consider about the way humans behave toward the many species that share our planet.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for Half Brother:
* "Deftly integrating family dynamics, animal-rights issues, and the painful lessons of growing up, Half Brother draws readers in from the beginning and doesn't let go. The carefully crafted characters will be an easy connection for teens and the interpretation of the animal-testing controversies of the 1970s will provide an alternate viewpoint for animal-book lovers." - SLJ, starred review
"Set in the simpler time of the early '70s, this well-plotted novel weaves together themes of animal rights, family issues and the cost of animal research....There are no easy answers, just a thoughtful portrayal of real people grappling with tough questions." - Kirkus
"Half Brother is highly recommended for all YA collections....a funny and exceptional story" - VOYA. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story is about a family that raises a chimp, Zan, just like a human child and try to teach him sign language. Many things go on throughout the story, with Ben (the main character) going through the normal process of a 14-15 year old, discussion on the treatment of chimps and other animals, and so forth.
The plot of this story is somewhat slow, and I have to say a lot of it is kind of drawn out. Don't get me wrong, however, as this story will leave you wanting for more by the end.
As mentioned before, the treatment of animals is a big topic in this story. They talk a lot about how Zan should be treated and if he should be considered a 'person' or not. It is very interesting to read about even if you aren't very familiar with the topic.
The point of view in the story is also what makes it very interesting. It is told by Ben, who is a teenager and goes through some pretty interesting experiences throughout his school year. A portion of the story, just like any Kenneth Oppel novel, is dedicated to talking about some love relationships. It is fairly well written and while it doesn't really have too much of a place in such a novel, it is still pretty fun to read about.
Overall this story is very good. I had a rollercoaster of emotions while reading it, but in general, it was very fun to read, which is why I definitely would recommend this book if you have some spare time.
This book is something completely different from Oppel's usual fare and I must admit I was a little leery going in, hoping this wasn't going to end up being a platform for animal rights. I need not have worried; Oppel is an accomplished writer and a reader can be confident that he is going to produce a well-crafted novel that will keep one glued to one's seat.
I read this book in one sitting, I was that taken with it. It's a far cry from my usual reading fare as well and I found it fascinating. Ben's father is a scientist and his mother also, though she is still writing her PhD dissertation. The father has a Project where he is to bring a baby chimp into the household and along with a staff of his students raise the chimp as a human, all the while seeing if they can teach the chimp, Zan, to learn American Sign Language and fully communicate with them. At first Ben's not so crazy about Zan, after all they had to move from Toronto to B.C. for his father to work at this new University, but it doesn't take long until Ben and Zan are bosom buddies and more than that, brothers in a real sense.
But the Project isn't proceeding fast enough, they are denied the big grant they expected, the University wants more results and soon Ben is fighting for Zan's place in their family and he must risk it all to save Zan from a future worse than death.
An incredibly intriguing story. The characters themselves add such tension to the story, the family dynamics shape the conflicts. The dad is stoically scientific, even towards his own son, emotions are not one of his good points, though we pick up clues as to what shaped this man. The mother, though also scientific, is naturally maternal, has a great relationship with her son, and her maternalism flows over to baby Zan. Ben, is thirteen when the story starts and has a whole other side story going on about school, friends and girls (especially). This is also a coming-of-age story for him and there is one particularly interesting thing about his and Zan's development. Zan obviously becomes humanized, mimics the humans and considers himself human but we also see in some ways that Zan's natural chimp behaviour is brushing off on Ben, who has been reading a lot about chimps since Zan's arrival. While Ben plays Alpha-male at school to win friends, popularity and girls, it isn't until an instant when he becomes furiously angry with his father that we see Ben turn chimp.
This story is full of humorous escapades created by Zan and others' reactions to him. But this is also a serious story that deals with the ethical treatment of animals. Right from the beginning of the book there are a couple of hints that the story is not taking place in the here and now and eventually we learn that Zan's story is taking place some 30 years in the past. This opens up a world of science that did not have the same ethics as we do today when it comes to using animals in experiments. Oppel does not go all "activist" on us but instead introduces the reader to various practices going on at the time and the scientific reasoning behind the ethics of such experimentation. Then he shows the various types and forms of protest to this treatment and with that goes further to say it was not all in the name of science (make-up testing for example).
A well-written, gripping, thought-provoking story, possibly Oppel's greatest book to date. This story may well have some of it's targeted readers looking into animal related careers where they will have a voice in ensuring the ongoing ethical treatment of animals. Myself, after reading this, I feel like sitting down and watching the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" again.
The experiment was a little different. They were going to raise a chimpanzee as if he were part of the family. Soon Ben has a younger brother named Zan. They are going to raise him as if he is human and teach him American Sign Language. Zan is learning at an amazing speed - he is averaging two new signs a week and soon he is combining them by himself. Helping with project Zan gives Ben an idea and he starts project Jennifer. Jennifer is the girl of his dreams and he will do whatever research he needs to win her over. Soon everything starts falling in place. Things are going well with Jennifer, project Zan is getting a lot of press. But then things take a turn for the worse; Zan gets some bad press and Ben's dad seems to be giving up on the project.
Soon Ben feels like Zan is really his little brother and cannot imagine his life without him. But in science, if a project does not go well, it is sometimes terminated. Ben is now willing to risk everything for Zan whom he once resented. Told from Ben's perspective, the story is believable and incredibly addictive. I stayed up really late reading it when I should have gone to bed early. I just could not put it down. Oppel has written a story about adoption, family, relationships and coming of age. It is an amazing book.
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