By Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic Press, 2012. 264 pgs. Young Adult
Sophie's mother runs a preserve for bonobos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sophie goes to visit during the summers. Although this year, she's reluctant to visit, she quickly becomes more involved than she's ever been before when she basically adopts a malnourished, mistreated young bonobo, Otto, and essentially becomes his surrogate mother. When the country breaks out in war and the preserve is attacked while her mother is away, Sophie and Otto escape to the jungle, and it's up to Sophie to try to save Otto once again.
Schrefer does a great job portraying a fictitious--and yet entirely plausible--conflict and the way that it affects people. In the midst of that background, he also builds a beautiful relationship between Sophie and Otto, showing their attachment to one another and the difficult decisions Sophie faces as she tries to save Otto, who to most people is only a pet at best or a source of food at worst. Sophie is a strong, smart girl whose determination to save Otto will endear her to readers, and Otto is adorable. This is one that I debated whether or not to read, and upon completion, I'm thrilled that I didn't miss out on a such a wonderful story. There is some off-scene violence and a few descriptions of the repercussions of that violence.