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Half Brother [Kindle Edition]

Kenneth Oppel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the Printz-Honor-winning author of Airborn comes an absorbing YA novel about a teen boy whose scientist parents take in a chimpanzee to be part of the family.

For thirteen years, Ben Tomlin was an only child. But all that changes when his mother brings home Zan -- an eight-day-old chimpanzee. Ben's father, a renowned behavioral scientist, has uprooted the family to pursue his latest research project: a high-profile experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire advanced language skills. Ben's parents tell him to treat Zan like a little brother. Ben reluctantly agrees. At least now he's not the only one his father's going to scrutinize.

It isn't long before Ben is Zan's favorite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7-11-Ben, 13, and his family move from Toronto to Victoria, British Columbia, where his father, a behavioral scientist, is undertaking the most important research project of his life. They will take in a baby chimp, treat him like family and, using sign language, set out to document if the chimp can acquire and use human language. Back in the 1960s, this line of research was in its infancy, so the Tomlins are winging it on a lot of levels. Ben is not thrilled about the move, but when his new chimp brother arrives, everything changes. He falls in love with Zan (short for Tarzan) and becomes his constant companion. Zan begins to learn sign language and eventually to string two and three word sentences together. Despite his linguistic success, money dries up and Ben's family must abandon the study and maybe even Zan. Ben and his father square off about their level of responsibility for Zan and their relationship ultimately hangs in the balance. Kenneth Oppel's story (Scholastic, 2010) poses some important ethical questions that confront all researchers. Daniel di Tomasso's narration sometimes seems a bit rushed, but that can be overlooked given the typical speech pattern of teenagers. He occasionally intones the end of a sentence and then seems to discover that more is to come, resulting in some odd phrasing. However, the story itself is so strong and the narration is good enough that listeners will be drawn to this audiobook. A solid purchase for YA collections.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

On Ben’s thirteenth birthday, his parents introduce him to his new sibling: a hairy, swaddled baby chimp that will be raised as part of the family in an experiment run by Ben’s father, a behavioral psychologist. At first, Ben resists calling Zan his brother, but as he begins to communicate with Zan through sign language, he develops a true, loving connection with the little chimp, even as he realizes that his father views Zan as just a scientific specimen. What will happen to Zan when the experiment is over? Best known for his award-winning speculative fiction, Canadian author Oppel tells a thought-provoking story set in 1970s Victoria. A few drawn-out episodes and a somewhat rushed conclusion result in some uneven pacing. But Oppel beautifully grounds larger philosophical questions about the deep, mysterious bonds and boundaries between humans and animals with Ben’s coming-of-age concerns, including his first crush (whom he studies using scientific methods) and his acute awareness of family tensions, all narrated in his authentic voice. A moving, original novel that readers will want to ponder and discuss. Grades 7-10. --Gillian Engberg

Product Details

  • File Size: 426 KB
  • Print Length: 387 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 054522926X
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00475APG8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,614 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
All the above reviews give insightful and thorough explanations of the story.

I write to express my admiration for Mr. Oppel's skill and gifts as a writer. I read about 30 to 50 middle school and YA books a year at my grandsons' requests. I enjoyed Percy Jackson; the Hunger Game Series; and many books dealing with wizards, magic, witches, and other fanciful characters set in the past, the present and the future. I have read books dealing with war, disease, physical handicaps, broken homes, bullies and other tragedies and problems.

I find books about regular children involved in the process of becoming thoughtful and feeling adults very hard to come by.

Half Brother is that book. The parents are real. The portrayal of adult life and academia is real. But, most of all, the hero is real. Although I am female; he seems to be like the boys I knew and know.

He has his feet on the ground; is respectful but not cowering; intelligient but not arrogant; self confident but capable of being humiliated. Filled with delicious humor and quick thinking, he is independent but not rebellious. His attachment to and love for the animal who comes into his life surprises him as well as the reader.
This attachment illustrates the qualities that make a boy into a man. He feels, but he also acts. And, he acts in a positive way and achieves results. This boy acts for the welfare of something outside himself. He does it without the aid of magic or the intercession of the gods.

I especially like the contrast in the story between the false and fanciful *love* he has for the gorgeous teen aged girl who uses him and the mature *real* love that he has for the animal.

This is the best book I read in the last two years. Both my 13 year old and my 11 year old grandson liked it. I hope that it finds its way onto Amazon's *best book* selections.

Mr. Oppel is a first rate writer (and that is understatement).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written chronicle of a really dirty trick November 21, 2010
Half Brother is a well written story perfect for any young fan of realistic fiction. I went into this book with very few expectations and at first was a bit puzzled. After all, the whole teaching chimps to talk story was nothing new, and I wondered why this author was telling it again. Sure, the characters were great and the writing was sound, but what new things could possibly be brought to this story? It wasn't long before I realized that it wasn't really about Zan learning to talk, it was about Ben growing up. The author seamlessly interweaves the stories about a chimp learning to be human and a young boy growing up while bringing in some pretty significant philosophical questions. Ben turns his first crush into a science experiment, so while the scientists are dealing with project Zan, he's dealing with Project Jennifer. It's only later when project Zan goes south that he questions the wisdom of starting Project Jennifer in the first place and whether one person should ever attempt to control another.

The author brings in the ethics of animal testing but never in a way that seems heavy handed. He seems more interested in exploring the notion of what actually constitutes a person. Ben struggles with self esteem, his relationship with his father, and trying to find his place at a new school where he is automatically known as the "chimp boy". His interpretation of chimp behavior and his attempt to use their social rules as a guide for his high school life are sometimes poignant, funny and very telling.

While this book got off to a rather slow start, the excellent characters were able to effectively carry the story forward and readers will soon be thoroughly hooked by a story that is unpredictable, original and exceedingly well written.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Thirteen-year-old Ben Tomlin isn't so sure about his father's latest experiment. A well-known behavioral scientist, Dr. Tomlin has whisked the family away to a new university in a new city to pursue a new scientific study, which means lots of change for Ben. Not only will he have to go to a new school and try to make new friends, he also will have to deal with the newest addition to the family: a baby chimpanzee. His father is trying to discover whether or not chimpanzees can learn sign language, and the best way is for the baby chimp to be raised like a human.

The Tomlins decide to name the chimp Zan, and Ben is immediately skeptical. Zan doesn't like to wear diapers, makes loud hooting noises, and bites if he gets upset. He climbs all over Ben and likes to destroy anything and everything in sight. Zan is unlike any baby brother Ben has ever seen. He acts like, well, a monkey. But Zan loves Ben, and Ben slowly starts to warm up to him. Ben teaches Zan his first word and quickly becomes his favorite. Suddenly, Zan is no longer an experiment or even a chimp. Zan is Ben's half brother.

After learning more about Zan, Ben begins to take on some of his traits. He decides that he wants to be the dominant male in his new school. His confidence grows, as does his popularity, especially among the teenage girls. Although he may be the dominant male at school, Ben consistently has run-ins with the dominant male at home --- his father. Dr. Tomlin is upset over Ben's low grades and his indifference towards school. He's also worried about Ben's growing attachment with Zan. Ben doesn't understand why his father only thinks of Zan as an experiment and not a member of the family. And Ben is devastated to learn that the money is running out on his father's little experiment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars yes
Loved the book, it was great. I felt like is was very understanding and was so cute and the best book I ever read
Published 21 days ago by yes
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, all-around.
The book was overall quite amazing and unique. Great for any young reader, but still good for all other age groups.
Published 5 months ago by i911
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching
A romance, a comedy, a drama, and everything else in just one book. I love this book and it will stick with me forever.
Published 7 months ago by me
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
just one of his many amazing books. i hope a sequel comes out soon.i admire his talent for being able to write dif. books on dif. things
Published 14 months ago by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Half Brother
A very motivational story. It had fun dialogue and lots of literature. Even though this book is mostly realistic fiction, chimps can still learn sign language
Published 14 months ago by SHP
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever!!!!
This was a extraordinary, action packed, thrilling book I highly, highly, recommend this book . This is a great book for all ages.
Published 15 months ago by Katie
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disturbing... But an Overall Good Book
I love this book but it has some topics about girls that the main character, Ben, thinks about. It was disturbing. That makes this book for more mature readers. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Book lover
4.0 out of 5 stars Half Brother
My granddaughter suggested I read Half Brother because she had read it and really enjoyed it. It was well written. I did find it a little sad. Great book for teens.
Published 23 months ago by betsyblue
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational! Amazing!
I got this book on Kindle. I like the author and his style of writing. I really loved this book. It almost made me cry. I highly recommend it.
Published on February 21, 2012 by Dennis
4.0 out of 5 stars What makes a family a family?
Ben, age 13, is not happy about the move from Toronto to Victoria, British Columbia; his dad will be experimenting with a chimpanzee, trying to teach the chimp, Zan, sign language. Read more
Published on July 24, 2011 by Heidi G
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More About the Author

Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies worldwide, and been adapted as an animated TV series and stage play. Airborn was winner of a Michael L Printz Honor Book Award, and the Canadian Governor General's Award for Children's Literature; its sequel, Skybreaker, was a New York Times bestseller and was named Children's Novel of the Year by the London Times. He is also the author of Half Brother, and This Dark Endeavor, a prequel to Frankenstein. His most recent book is THE BOUNDLESS, a thriller set aboard the longest, most magnificent train ever built. Born on Vancouver Island, he has lived in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, and now lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

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