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We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed T [Kindle Edition]

Benjamin Mee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home—a dilapidated zoo where more than 200 exotic animals would be their new neighbors—his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. Mee’s dream was to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. The grand reopening was scheduled for spring, but there was much work to be done and none of it easy for the novice zookeepers. Tigers broke loose, money was tight, the staff grew skeptical, and family tensions reached a boiling point.

Then tragedy struck. Katherine, Ben’s wife, had a recurrence of a brain tumor, forcing Benjamin and his two young children to face the heartbreak of illness and the devastating loss of a wife and mother. But inspired by the memory of Katherine and the healing power of the incredible family of animals they had grown to love; Benjamin and his kids resolved to move forward, and today the zoo is a thriving success.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Between his wife Katherine's diagnosis of glioblastoma and her quiet death less than three years later, Mee (The Call of DIY), his siblings and his mother bought a bedraggled zoo, complete with decaying buildings, a ragtag group of animals, an eclectic staff and a reputation that had been quickly going to the wolves. In this occasionally charming (to his children: Quiet. Daddy's trying to buy a zoo) but overly wordy book, Mee writes about caring for his dying wife and their two young children, dealing with Code Red emergencies (when a dangerous animal escapes its confines), hiring staff, learning about his new two- and four-footed charges and setting his sights on refurbishing his zoo into a sanctuary for breeding and raising endangered animals. Mee tends to meander with too-long explanations for one-sentence points, and the awe he feels about each individual animal is repetitive. Coupled with Britishisms that are never explained and a curious lack of varied wild animal stories, this book that was obviously meant to make animal lovers roar with pleasure will only make them whine with frustration. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When writer Mee’s father died, his mother needed to sell the house and move to a smaller place—so the entire family decided to buy a zoo. Mee’s sister had seen an advertisement for the sale of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a small zoo in Devonshire in the southwest of England. After a long series of negotiations, licensing snafus, and the inevitable family conflicts, the author, his mother, and his brother moved into the park’s rundown house and started running a zoo. Though they owned the grounds and its 200 animals outright, they still had to pay 20 staff members, feed the animals, and upgrade the grounds. During the first week, a jaguar escaped, and the author and his brother began to realize what they’d gotten themselves into. Through eradicating the plague of rats, clearing out years of rubbish to reveal usable buildings, and battling with banks for operating expenses, the author and his staff gradually pulled the zoo back from the brink of closure. The emotional appeal of the zoo’s rescue is wonderfully limned in Mee’s practical, good-humored prose. --Nancy Bent

Product Details

  • File Size: 418 KB
  • Print Length: 271 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385666225
  • Publisher: Weinstein Books; Media tie-in, Movie tie-in edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OVTAVU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,623 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lions and tigers and bears oh my! October 19, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Benjamin Mee has finally settled his family in a French barn/house and has settled in to write a book when his father dies and his siblings begin to consider purchasing a zoo. His 76 year old mother supports this idea, but negotiations fall apart and each sibling returns to their lives. Mee and his wife Katherine and son Milo and daughter Ella are busy with daily life when a health problem strikes Katherine and the Mee family is just trying to survive. In the midst of this the zoo becomes available again and after protracted negotiations and countless compromises the family, minus one brother purchase the zoo which they rename Dartmoor Wildlife Park.

Life at the zoo is a continuing series of struggles as the family tries to return the park to a financial success. The children and the staff come to respect and love the animals. Of course there are unexpected crisis...escaping cats, sick animals, sick family and the countless health inspections. We Bought a Zoo is a delightful glimpse into what it takes to run a small private zoo and a glimpse of what might be referred to as the eccentricity of the British. I appreciated the honest account of one family's plunge into chasing a dream. While the story sometimes holds the reader at arm's length, it is a heartwarming read.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Story October 22, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 stars

In "We Bought A Zoo", Benjamin Mee tells the story of how his family came to buy the Dartmoor Zoological Park and the great lengths it took to revitalize the zoo and prepare it for opening day. I think this book is particularly appealing because it is so hard to imagine most people purchasing a zoo or even entertaining the idea of doing so. Hence, the mystery of it all! I was intrigued by the book's topic and I just had to find out what Mee's thought process was and the reasoning behind his family's extraordinary acquisition.

From the start, Mee provides an in-depth analysis into the zoo-keeping business and leaves no details unexplored. Some of the information about animal grooming and sterilization seemed a bit excessive to have included and tended to distract from the story. However I do understand that Mee wanted to provide readers all of the facts, even if they seemed trivial, in order to paint the complete picture of what he had to cope with on a daily basis. The most interesting parts about the animals were their interactions with each other and their keepers. I also really liked the scenes that depicted the animal runaways which really gave a glimpse into how stressful and sometimes exciting managing a zoo can be. There are even some beautiful color photos of Mee's family and ones of the noteworthy animals mentioned in the book!

While most of the book is dedicated to details of the zoo and Mee's formal responsibilities to the zoo, the parts that talk about his wife Katherine and her illness are really touching. I enjoyed reading about their special relationship and how much Mee too care of her. It was nice to see the Mee's caretaking side because it came in contrast to his required business-like manner while running the zoo.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Money Makes the Zoo Go 'Round.... November 6, 2008
Format:Hardcover
We Bought A Zoo is subtitled: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives Forever

Given that, the story takes a little time to get off the ground. We find the author, a free-lance writer, living in rural southern France with his wife & two children and refinishing two dirt-floor stone barns. When word comes through his sister that a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside is for sale, the author & his extended family takes action to purchase it. This is not an easy endeavor and the business details fill the first quarter of the book. Note also that a BBC film crew got wind of the endeavour and asked to film the process.

The thing is, I don't think I'd like Benjamin Mee if I met him in person. He uprooted his family once, by selling their beloved flat in London to move to his personal idyll in France, and then again, back to England because, after all, HE'D always wanted to own a zoo and now his French dream wasn't what he wanted after all. On both occasions, he overrode his wife Katherine. This was especially appalling to me the second time because Katherine was newly diagnosed with a brain tumour & receiving (excellent) treatment in France. The fact that his (possibly) dying wife wasn't enthused about this new venture didn't faze him a bit.

In addition, although Mee has experienced staff and certified professionals advising him, he ignores their advice in serious decisions at least twice that he reports. In both cases, things ended up favorably but, rather than be grateful for twists of fate that may have affected the situations, he boasts and struts.

But the story?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful memoir November 16, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This was a pretty powerful memoir. It combines a family, a dream, hard work, and tragedy. I think for the most part all the elements are pretty well balanced. I was rooting for this family and the success of their zoo and dream. They worked tirelessly to make improvements for the animals and zoo while trying to remain a close-knit family as the author's wife passes away.

I loved reading about the author's wife and children, especially his love for his wife. I would have loved to learn a bit more about his other family members as well. The author's mother is mentioned several times but I would have liked to learn more about his siblings.

All the stories related to the zoo were pretty amazing. Multiple animal escapes, staff spats, and animal personalities. There was a great deal going on. And I loved it all! At times when the author was talking about the animal enclosers I had a hard time picturing exactly what he meant. I don't know if it was just me or if it's hard for a zoo outsider to understand these things. It was very rewarding to see the zoo's makeover from start to finish and see the staff form and come together to get the zoo ready for inspection.

This was a very original true story and I would like to learn more about this family and their zoo since this book was completed!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 4 days ago by Gerlinde Pflaumer-Yeater
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I liked it
Published 20 days ago by Vicki L. Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Obviously different than the movie, but well worth the read!
Published 1 month ago by Jewel
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I watched the movie first and the book lived up to it.
Published 3 months ago by Victoria wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars really enjoyed it!
I like reading the book instead of seeing the movie and I'm glad I read this one, it's an uplifting story!
Published 5 months ago by K. R. Newton
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not have the charm of James Herriot books
I liked the movie, but the book bored me. Very little information about family relationships and dynamics (except for the death of a family member. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Slacker Mom
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely and inspiring
love it. the book was great and it was truly inspiring to me because you can take something broken and run down and turn it in to something amazing
Published 7 months ago by Jenny Hingtgen
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
I got this book because my little sister is going into zoo science so I wanted to learn more about what it was like to run a zoo because I loved the movie. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Emma Writer
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesint read
The books arrived in good time and were in good condion. Having seen the movie it was interesting to read the book. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Betty J Stralnic
4.0 out of 5 stars engaging story
This book is not the movie. The story is simpler and straight forward. But it is sweet and engaging. I would recommend it.
Published 8 months ago by Lisa Mree
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