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We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Broken-Down Zoo, and the 200 Animals That Changed a Fam Paperback – 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007274882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007274888
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,980,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on 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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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sheri S. VINE VOICE on 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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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Debra Rodgers on 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mint910 VINE VOICE on 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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