Gale, Eric Kahn. The Zoo at the Edge of the World.
August 26th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Marlin lives with his father and older brother Tim in South American in a vaguely Victoria time period. The family (the mother is deceased) run a resort for wealthy British folk that features a zoo of exotic animals. The father, Ronan Rackham, is a noted explorer, and when he comes home from one expedition, he brings a jaguar back. The cat has eaten one of the staff, and can't be let loose since he has acquired the taste for people, so he is heavily caged. Marlin stutters terribly and is given a hard time by his brother and the staff, but he can speak perfectly well if he is alone with his pet monkey, Kenji. Once the jaguar arrives, Marlin finds that he can understand what the animals in the zoo are saying, and they can understand him! There is a wealthy family staying at the resort, and their young daughter, Olivia, befriends Marlin, and he realizes that the father is trying to buy up parts of the jungle for a sugar plantation, and that will damage the resort, which is already having financial trouble. When even more disturbing details emerge about the future of the zoo, how will Marlin safeguard the animals as well as himself?
Strengths: This is a decent reality based fantasy with a good dose of action and adventure. The book is a great length, and describes life in the jungle during this period of history well. Marlin's stuttering is dealt with sensitively, although his treatment by his brother and the staff is appalling.
Weaknesses: Got this at a book look, and it strikes me as one of those perfectly nice books that students will not frequently pick up. I don't know if it's the cover, the title, or what, but over the years I've gotten a fair number of books, mainly fantasies, at these book looks that just fall flat. (Jones' Enchanted Glass, Bracegirdle's Fiendish Deeds) We'll see.