From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9–Joey Willis is deaf, and her mother won't allow her to learn American Sign Language. Her isolated existence is turned upside down, however, when she meets her elderly neighbor, Dr. Charles Mansell, and his sign-language-using chimpanzee, Sukari. Against her mother's wishes, Joey begins to learn to sign, and Charlie, whose parents were deaf, opens her eyes to a future filled with possibilities. When he dies, Sukari's fate is left in Joey's hands. Rorby has clearly done her research. From the dialogue gaps that allow youngsters to share the frustration even a skilled lip reader feels, to a brutal scene in a chimp-filled research facility, the wealth of details support but, unfortunately, often overwhelm the story. The tale is so dense that many plot threads are abruptly abandoned, and the narrative skips ahead at random intervals. Laden with issues–parent-child relationships, the treatment of research animals, and child abuse (Joey's deafness is the result of a beating by her father)–the book often gets bogged down in its own seriousness. However, the writing shines when Rorby focuses on what is obviously her true passion: Sukari and the fate of chimpanzees like her.–Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD
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