Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Talk With The Animals

Half BrotherLast week I read two books about people talking to animals, which is funny to me since they are completely opposite books.  Kenneth Oppel wrote a realistic book about a boy whose scientist parents experiment by adopting a chimpanzee and teaching him sign language. Ben thinks he has a furry brother; his parents think they have a chance at some good research grants. Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle never questions whether his chimpanzee is really speaking or not; all the Dolittle books grant every animal its own language and dialects, from Chee-chee down to nut grubs. Oppel's character has girl problems and daddy issues and ethical dilemmas; Lofting's Tommy has a vague desire to ride a beautiful horse.

Half Brother, Kenneth Oppel. It's hard for me to judge this book because Oppel did not write the book I wanted to read. The premise of a family adopting a chimpanzee and teaching him Sign Language fascinated me, but most of the book was about the human brother's relationships with girls, his dad, and sometimes his chimp brother. I found myself zoning out during the bits about the boy trying to connect with a neighbor girl and the whole adventure bit at the end of the experiment drowned the interesting parts about the emotional cost to the family under a lot of dashing about with rescue missions and fund raising stunts.

Doctor Dolittle's Puddleby Adventures, Hugh Lofting. So, this is one of the old printings, before people realized how problematic the African characters were. Highly prized among purists now. These stories don't tie together into a novel, although some group together into tiny character arcs. I mostly read them to enjoy the enigma that is the doctor's boy Tommy, who a pure every boy with no apparent talent or personality.

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