Don't Feed the Boy (review)
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Reviewed by
Latham, Irene. Don't Feed the Boy; illus. by Stephanie Graegin. Roaring Brook, 2012. 280p. ISBN 978-1-59643-755-5 $15.99 R Gr. 4-6.

Eleven-year-old Whit Whitaker has been raised in the zoo where his parents work, with only the zoo workers, the animals, and his homeschool teacher as companions. Increasingly frustrated by his lack of social opportunities and his parents' seeming lack of interest in him, Whit is thrilled to make friends with Stella, a girl his age who comes to the zoo every day to draw the birds. When Whit sneaks off to accompany Stella to her home, however, he learns that there are worse homes than the zoo: Stella's dad, disabled by a truck accident years ago, is addicted to pain pills, is verbally abusive, and has a gun, which he used to wound Stella's brother, who has since run away. Stella wants to run away, too, and she has a place in mind—the zoo—and Whit must decide whether or not to help her hide even as he figures out how to confront his own parents about his desire for a life beyond the bounds of the zoo's fence. The intriguing premise of a kid raised in a zoo will appeal tremendously to animal-loving kids, and Latham provides lots of fascinating zoo specifics without disrupting the narrative flow. The story is credibly grounded, and Whit's moral dilemma concerning Stella is compelling. the soft shading and simplified figures in Graegin's occasional black and white illustrations are somewhat more warm and cozy than the story itself, but they're attractive decorations. Kids who wish they could live at the zoo will find this a satisfying read.

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