| Don't Feed The Boy
Coming October 16, 2012
Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan
“Don't Feed the Boy is a delightfully satisfying blend of action and emotion, tension and heart. Everyone should have a best friend like Whit.”|
–Kathryn Erskine, winnerof the National Book Award for Mockingbird
Living at the zoo sounds pretty sweet, but 11-year-old Whit has soured on the experience,
having spent his whole life at the Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama, which is run by his busy and
distracted parents. Both Whit’s parents and his homeschool teacher, Ms. Connie, have taught
him a great deal about exotic animals, though he’d rather be surrounded by a more ordinary
species: other kids. When Whit notices a girl who visits the zoo each day to sketch the birds,
he sets his heart on getting to know the “Bird Girl” and finally making a friend his own age.
Unfortunately, being a good friend to “Bird Girl,” whose actual name is Stella and who has
troubles at home, involves taking dangerous risks and breaking rules that test Whit’s courage
and his parents’ trust. The unusual setting and the characters’ tricky family dynamics add tension
and zest to Latham’s (Leaving Gee’s Bend) empathetic friendship tale, as do Graegin’s pencil
drawings, which portray the story’s upsetting and uplifting moments with gentleness. Readers
won’t soon forget Whit and Stella’s adventures.
- Publisher’s Weekly
Raised in the Alabama zoo run by his busy parents, 11-year-old Whit dreams of escape, but his new friend Stella is someone whose need for escape is real.
Avoiding an angry, abusive father, Stella spends her days at the zoo, where she first becomes the subject for Whit’s home-schooling field study and then his first real friend. Before he learns her name, Whit calls her Bird Girl because she constantly draws the birds—ironic because these birds can't fly free; their wings are clipped. In the course of their friendship, Whit experiments with freedom himself. Leaving the zoo boundaries, he visits Stella’s smoke-smelling apartment home, seeing the situation for himself and even taking surprising action. Whit’s zoo is realistic, a place where animals are born and die. He shows off its secret places, and readers get a glimpse behind the scenes. He comes to see it as a place families and friends visit as much to enjoy each other as to see the attractions, learning to appreciate it more. Latham weaves in a strong argument for the conservation mission of zoos and a clear warning about the dangers of handguns. A satisfying ending sees Whit poised to enter the wider world of public middle school.
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