Hello everyone! Welcome to the new school year. We are kicking off our book review blog this year with a review written by Meghan Reimer. Anyone interested in practicing how to write reviews or readers' advisory entries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Now, without further ado...
|Ortega by Maureen Fergus|
Ortega by Maureen Fergus is the story of a remarkable eleven-year-old gorilla. Ortega is the subject of a ground-breaking experiment that gave the ape a voice to speak with and a life in the world of humans. As the book opens, Ortega is about to attend a human school for the first time. After a rough beginning, the gorilla makes some good friends and learns to adjust to his new world. Caught between his life as a student and friend, and as a research subject for the unfeeling Dr. Whitmore, Ortega starts to question his place in the world and wants to find out exactly where he belongs. When Dr. Whitmore tells Ortega that he may be sold, Ortega and his new friends go through trials which test the limits of their friendship and allows Ortega to discover just who he is.
The novel, aimed at ages nine to twelve, is an accurate reflection of the lessons that pre-teens are learning. The novel is full of characters who do and say the things regular eleven-year-olds do, even Ortega himself who yearns for responsibility but can't sleep without his favourite teddy bear. Ortega also struggles with his identity and place in the world, as he is caught between the world of humans and the world of animals. He learns to relate to new people and accept that life isn't always fair. Fergus focuses on the theme of equality and accepting those who are different from ourselves, a valuable lesson for all children (and adults). It seems easy in the book for the children to accept a love able, although misbehaved, gorilla into their lives, but how easy is it to really accept diversity and overlook large differences in others?
In the end, this story is primarily about friendships and loving relationships. Ortega learns to make friends and finds out how important it is to treat such friends well. He gains friends who will risk anything for each other, even haunted factories. Ortega also discovers that family is who loves you and cares for you, rather than what DNA says. This novel could serve as a great example to adopted children struggling with not knowing their birth families.
The novel is written with a good pace, full of exciting adventures, and very real characters. As odd as it sounds, you really find yourself identifying with Ortega the gorilla and his story of finding acceptance. I would recommend this book to any child around age ten.