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'Endangered' by Eliot Schrefer: Gripping adventure about bonobos and the Congo

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Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

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"Endangered" by Eliot Schrefer is available in paperback. This engrossing fictional tale of a teenager's adventure (a life-and-death adventure) trying to get to safety with her young bonobo is a book that is difficult to put down. Be forewarned, once you've read this book you will be fascinated with the subject of bonobos and will want to read more and learn more about these gentle relatives of ours.

Sophie, the protagonist, is the daughter of an Italian father and a mother who cares so much for bonobos that when her husband's work meant returning to the United States, she stayed in the Congo to care for the bonobos who had no one else. Sophie went with her father, visiting her mother on vacations.

The story begins when Sophie is returning to Africa to visit her mother. She sees a trafficker with a sickly baby bonobo and impulsively buys the bonobo to rescue him. Of course, the reason one should never buy a baby bonobo from a trader is that he will immediately go and kill another family to take the young and sell them. But Sophie rescues Otto, as she names him.

She saves his life and he adores her. When her mother travels to release some bonobos, something unexpected happens. A revolution begins. Sophie is able to hide in the bonobo enclosure, but she hears gunshots and realizes that the workers at the sanctuary are being killed and she is alone with the bonobos.

For a girl from the States, Sophie is not prepared for what follows. But Schrefer creates a plucky heroine, one who is smart and caring, while at the same time human enough to make mistakes.

Reading about the sanctuary in "Endangered" reminded me of Vanessa Woods' book "Bonobo Handshake," so I wasn't surprised that Schrefer writes in the Acknowledgements section that reading that book inspired him to write "Endangered."

Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Scholastic Press, for review purposes.

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