100-Character Breakdown: As educational as it is enthralling. Captivating narration and vivid human and animal characters.
Genre: Young adult, adventure
Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 2014)
In Threatened, second of Eliot Schrefer’s Great Ape Quartet, Schrefer once again vividly captures the humanity of apes, using sharp prose and captivating storytelling. Endangered, first in the quartet, draws a lively picture of bonobos, and Threatened does the same with chimpanzees. The quartet’s books are standalone, but readers won’t want to stop after finishing Threatened. Luc is an AIDS orphan and a debt slave in a city in Gabon when he encounters Professor Abdul Mohammad, simply known as Prof. Prof is a scientist and a researcher. Aspiring to be Africa’s Jane Goodall, Prof arrives in Gabon to study wild chimpanzees. He frees Luc from bondholder Monsieur Tatagani, hiring Luc as his research assistant. The two, along with Prof’s vervet monkey Omar, travel deep into the jungle, where they interact with the animals Luc has known all his life as the terrifying “mock men.”
Luc’s first person narration is engrossing and incredibly well-crafted. Schrefer simultaneously details the life of an African orphan and humanizes the chimps — especially the chimps Luc names Mango and Drummer — through this narration. The characterization as a whole is phenomenal. But the characterization of the chimps is simply remarkable. Schrefer’s descriptive writing draws the reader in, creating powerful empathy between humans and chimps alike. This carefully crafted prose demonstrates just how deeply he researched chimpanzees, resulting in a book that is as educational as it is enthralling. His research goes beyond the chimps; the setting, from the towns to the jungle itself, is so vivid that it is almost a character in itself. Threatened is just as powerful as Endangered — Schrefer’s quartet is not to be missed.