As a former raptor rehabber and zoo educator with a degree in Zoology, I love reading books about wildlife. Finding good nonfiction isn’t a problem. Earlier this year I read and loved
Life, Love, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, a memoir about Dame Sheldrick’s life growing up in Kenya and about her elephant orphanage.
But, finding good fiction that balances the amazing facts of wildlife and/or environment with great story is a bigger challenge. In some cases, I find the facts are at the forefront, making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. In other cases, the story is too weak to be entertaining or the characters cardboard, not making me care about their plights. I recently read two outstanding books that wove both story and wildlife/environmental issues seamlessly.
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (YA fiction)
When 14-year-old Sophie flies to her former home, the Democratic Republic of Congo, to spend the summer with her mother at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary, she is unprepared for what follows when she “rescues” an orphaned and suffering bonobo from the streets. She falls in love with the dependent Otto, caring for him while her mother keeps busy with the sanctuary. As summer comes to a close and her mother leaves to do a release of bonobos, rebel war breaks out and Sophie must survive on her own and care for Otto. A truly gripping and fascinating tale focusing on Sophie’s survival and highlighting the plight of endangered bonobos.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (adult fiction)
When Dellarobia was 17, she got pregnant and all her plans and dreams flew out the window. She married Cub Turnbow, moving into the house his parents built for them on their family farm, and two children and ten years later, she feels like the perpetual outsider. One day, after making a decision she starts to reconsider that takes her up the mountainside behind her house, she is greeted by a dazzling display of only what she can call a lake of fire. This leads to a series of many changes in her life. The vision was actually wintering (and displaced) monarch butterflies This brings a flood of news-journalists, scientists, and activists. And as the months turn, so do Dellarobia’s thoughts which lead her to some hard decisions regarding her life choices, her dreams and hopes, and her marriage. This story is half science journal and half story and perfectly blended, dealing with broken dreams and climate change, God and politics, disparate views and the differences in life, learning, and thought when it comes to the haves and have-nots.
I highly recommend all of the above books! Happy reading!