Shootin’ the Breeze with Eliot Schrefer

Hello Readers!

If you read only one book this year I’m going to suggest that book be Eliot Schrefer’s National Book Award Finalist Endangered. If you read my recent review that you know just how much I loved this book!

Endangered is the kind of the book that sticks with readers – in the minds and in their hearts – long after the book has come to a close. It’s because of that, and the fact that it’s beautifully written, that I suggest you read Endangered.

I love this book so much, I knew I just had to (at least try) talk with author Eliot Schrefer, and feature him as well as his book on here. Eliot was so very kind to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions!

BookBandit Blog (BB): What was the most difficult part of writing Endangered? The easiest?

Eliot Schrefer (ES): I found the same scene to be both the easiest and hardest part of Endangered. It’s when Sophie winds up in a hut with a child soldier, Bouain, and must negotiate with him to recover her bonobo, Otto. So much is on the table there–safety, privilege, power. I can write scenes with lots of conflict more easily than those that are quieter, so in that way it was easy to write. But I also had to enter the mind of a child soldier, to follow his journey that brought him to where he is. And with that came empathy, which was hard to stomach. Part of me actually wanted him to get to keep Otto.

BB: From Endangered readers learn a lot about bonobos, one of the things they learn is that they are matriarchal. How did they react to you?

ES: It was amazing seeing the bonobos up close. Really transporting and mystifying and moving. You really do get the sense that you’re looking at a creature with admittedly less intelligence but just as complex an emotional life. I could have stared at them for hours. In general, bonobos have a hard time with men. All the orphans at the sanctuary I stayed at outside of Kinshasa, Lola ya Bonobo, had seen their mothers killed at the hands of men. So human women have a much easier time of it with them (which is why I made the main character a girl in the novel). I got along pretty well with them, though. I think it’s because I’m not an especially dominating kind of guy, and I’m on the lighter/shorter side. That’s how bonobos like their males. 😊

BB: Can you tell anything about any new and upcoming projects you are currently working on?

ES: Yes! Endangered has inspired a quartet of novels. The Great Ape Quartet will be one book about each of the apes (chimps next, followed by orangutans and gorillas), and a young person’s relationship with that animal set against the political backdrop of the countries they’re from. I’m hugely excited about it–hopefully I don’t get tired of primates!

BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?

ES: Be kind to yourself. Especially when you’re in the drafting stage, remind yourself you have all the time in the world to edit it and make it better later. I think beginning writers give up far too easily because they let the inner critic into the room too early.

“The more I learn about bonobos, the more I fall in love with their species. It doesn’t hurt that they’re so darn adorable. They’re also so shy that science didn’t know much about them until recently—as a result we thought chimpanzees were our nearest relatives. But bonobos are as closely related to us, if not even more so. And unlike chimpanzees, they don’t kill or rape one another. They have such frequent physical interaction that their family groups are incredibly close-knit and protective—and the females are in charge! The first time I saw a group of three young female bonobos stand down a much larger male who got out of line, I understood the real source of bonobo pacifism. When females have such strong bonding, their society has a caring police force, and all bonobos benefit. Especially the infants.

I hope that what will pull readers into Endangered is the appeal of seeing a young woman care for a young orphan bonobo, and then the drama of watching them make their way across a country at war as Sophie tries to reach her mother. There’s a lot of risk and a lot of danger, a true-to-life dystopia story. But there’s also a lot to learn about within the book—it’s an exploration of what bonobos are, and what that means for us as their relatives. It’s also an exploration of Congo’s recent history and a portrait of a very resilient people. Primarily, though, Endangered is the story of Sophie and little Otto, and the determination of a young woman to give a voice to a creature with a heart as broad as a human’s but with no voice of his own.

– Eliot Schrefer ”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (Author Statement Provided by Author Eliot Schrefer )

THANK YOU Eliot, for taking the time out of your schedule to answer some questions for The BookBandit Blog, and for providing your informative Author Statement! For more information about Eliot and his (amazing!) book Endangered, be sure to check out his website!

Endangered

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

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Sophie isn’t exactly thrilled to be spending her summer in the Congo at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary. It’s not that she doesn’t want to spend time with her mom, it’s just that bonobos aren’t her passion, their her mom’s.
When Sophie is approached by a ragged-looking man on the way to meet her mother at the sanctuary, she knows she shouldn’t stop, shouldn’t speak to the man. But the very small, very hurt baby bonobo that is caged on the back of the man’s bike makes her think twice. She knows she should just keep moving, but instead she hands over all the money she has and takes the baby bonobo with her to the sanctuary.
Her mother isn’t happy about Sophie’s interaction with a poacher, but she’s happy that her daughter saved the small creature. Before long, Sophie finds herself spending day and night with bonobo which she named Otto.  Otto has become Sophie’s friend, companion even. And Sophie, his.
But when civil war breaks out, and people are being killed left and right by machete wielding revolutionists, Sophie is forced to leave the Congo and her beloved Otto behind. There’s just one problem: she refuses. So when the revolutionists take over the now destroyed sanctuary, Sophie and Otto escape into the wild with the other, adult bonobos.
What was supposed to be a fun, relaxing summer vacation spent with her mother has now turned into a summer where Sophie is forced, not only to fight to fight for the life of Otto, but for her own. Will Sophie survive the wilds of the Congo, or will she and Otto be taken by the revolutionists?
National Book Award Finalist Endangered, written by author Eliot Schrefer, is a story that is about so much more than a girl and her bond to a young bonobo monkey. It’s a story of survival, one that is often bleak – more so than any post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel – yet hopeful.
Schrefer’s writing is sophisticated and smart.  Through his writing, main character Sophie’s voice is real. Through her thoughts and insights readers learn more and more about the girl she really is, the fears that she harbors and her will to overcome. Admittedly though, Sophie’s voice felt older than a typical fourteen year old’s voice. But the situation Sophie has found herself is, makes her grow up quickly.
Schrefer’s descriptions are vivid and lush. Readers will easily be able to understand the Congo and the state in which it is in. His portrayal of a country in the midst of civil war is terrifying, but above all things it’s honest.  At times scarier than any war-time news story, readers will understand fully what life in the Congo is like. Because of this, Endangered is a book that readers will, not only enjoy for the high tension and the action packed plot, but for the lessons they will learn from in.
In addition to his portrayal of a war-torn country, Schrefer’s portrayal of Sophie and Otto’s relationship is sincere and heartwarming.  Like any two best friends, readers will see that their relationship is built on more that just trying to stay alive. It’s based upon trust, a balance of give and take, and above all else love.
What I personally loved as a reader is that Endangered shows readers of all ages that the human spirit can soar high and persevere in the face of adversity and danger.
Schrefer’s Endangered is an exceptional read. Readers who pick up this book will fall instantly in love with the characters that fill the pages, will be engaged by the action packed race to save a life, and ultimately will be moved by the compassion in which the story is told.

Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten of 2013 (So Far)!

toptentuesday(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. The above Top Ten Tuesday image is also from The Broke and the Bookish.)

Every year I challenge myself to read at least 100 books. This year, my goal is one hundred and twenty-five (125) books. At this point in time I’ve read a total of fifty-six (56) books. Below are my top ten, so far:

1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

2. Splintered by A.G. Howard

3. Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

4. Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

5. The Archived by Victoria Schwab

6.  Paper Towns by John Green

7. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

8. The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

9. The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Bendis-Grab

10. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Book of the Week: Tea Rex

Tea Rex by Molly Idle

Published: 2013 by Viking Juvenile.

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

First things first, on a totally UNRELATED note, when searching for Tea Rex (the book) by Molly Idle on Amazon, I found this. And I think it’s AWESOME! And it kind of makes me wish I was a tea drinker.

I love, Love, LOVE the cover of this book! Especially how the T-Rex is too big to actually fit on the book.

This book isn’t just about a T-Rex who happens to love tea parties.

Step by step, readers learn the proper ways to host a tea party.

First, greet your invited guests at the door. Even if that guest is (at least) three times the size of the door frame.

Second, lead your guest to the parlor, or where ever your tea party is being held. And by lead, I mean by pulling your guest, who’s (at least) three times the size of the door frame through the very small space.

Third, introduce your guest to one another. Even teddy bears should be introduced.

Fourth, offer your guest a comfortable place to sit. Even if his butt is too big to fit on the too tiny seat.

Fifth, remember to take turns talking, and remember to keep everyone involved in the conversation.

Some guest will want to chit chat about the weather, others will dangle spoons off the tips of their noses.

Dangling spoons off the tip of your nose is a true talent.

But when you dangle a spoon off the tip of your nose, your eyes inadvertantly cross.

Oh, and remember to cover your ears when your guest roars into the conversation. Literally ROAAAARS!

Sixth, once everyone is settled, and the pleasantries are exchanged you can then serve refreshments, a.k.a. tea.

Seventh, make sure you cater to all of your guests individual tastes. That is, unless they like the taste of teddy bears.

Eating fellow friends and guests, no matter if he or she is a teddy bear, is not nice manners!

Eighth, pour tea. But be careful, it’s hot!

And whatever you do, do NOT pour the tea in your hat! Nor should you pour tea in anyone else’s hat. Again, it’s just not nice manners.

A word to the wise, when your special guest is (at least) three times the size of a door frame, keep extra tea cups on hand.

Ninth, music will liven up any party!

Tenth, when the tea party has come to a close, escort your guest out.  Even if it means shoving his big behind through a too tiny door.

As the host, you’ll be rewarded graciously — your guest will inevitably invite you to his or her place for tea.

And rest assured, he or she will roll out the red carpet for you just as you previously did.

We should all have tea parties!

Author Molly Idle’s writing is spectacular! It’s smart with a touch a whimsy. It’s inviting, and playful.

But her writing isn’t the only spectacular aspect of Tea Rex, so are her illustrations!

The illustrations featured in this book are beautiful. They’re lush and soft, and really bring the story to life. I especially love the use of pink and yellow!

This is such a sweet book! I feel like I could gush and gush about it!

Parents will love this book just as much their kids do.

 

 

 

Supergirl Mixtapes

Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

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Sick of being a small town girl, Maria longs to move away from her South Carolina town and all the demons that come along with it. All she wants is to move to New York City with her free-spirited artist mother.

After suffering a bout of depression, moving away is what Maria thinks is best for her. So when her overprotective father finally agrees to let his daughter move several hours away, she’s overjoyed.

Ready for the hustle and bustle of New York City, Maria packs her bags, takes the train, and ends up spending the better part of the day sitting on a bench in Penn Station, waiting for the mother barely knows.

As New York City becomes home to Maria, she often finds herself with more freedom than she’s ever been used to. Spending her days skipping school and walking the streets of the City, Maria is immersed in a world of both art and music.

Even though New York City is everything she dreamed it would be, freedom and fun, Maria often finds herself alone, struggling to get to know her still absent mother.

As her mother reveals more and more of herself, Maria quickly realizes that she isn’t the person she thought she’d be, isn’t the person she imagined her to be. Instead her mother is a flaky artist struggling to find, not her next sale, but her next fix.

As Maria’s dreams of New York City begin to come true, she soon learns that dreams sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Supergirl Mixtapes, written by Meagan Brothers, is realistic and rock’n’roll charged.

Seamlessly weaving music into a plot line, Supergirl Mixtapes is well written. Brothers writing is simple yet strong, inviting and conversational. So much so that Supergirl Mixtapes often reads like a friend who is telling you a very personal, very honest story.

Supergirl Mixtapes is a character driving story. Main character Maria is the kind of character that, despite being well crafted, is very obviously flawed. Her flaws make her real. Readers will appreciate that Maria is perfect, that she makes mistakes – frequently – just like the rest of us.

Even though Maria is likable, easy to sympathize with, and a character that readers will want to see come out on top, she isn’t a character to be defined as a heroine. Maria often turned a blind eye to bad situations instead of facing them head on. But again, these are the kinds of flaws, the kinds of reactions real people would have to the kind of situation Maria has found herself in.

What I personally, love, love, loved about Brothers latest novel, Supergirl Mixtapes, was the use of music. Music played a very prominent role in the book – it fueled both Maria and the plot.

Supergirl Mixtapes was a really great read. One that’s quick to get through, and easy to enjoy. But like its main character it too had some (very) minor flaws.

As a reader I had a very difficult time pinpointing a time frame in which Supergirl Mixtapes was set. At times it felt like it was set in the eighties, other times the nineties., and still there were times it felt as if it was taking place in the here and now.

Beyond that, I felt that Supergirl Mixtapes, though a thoroughly enjoyable read, wrapped up a bit to neatly. There were some messy situations: drug abuse, absentee parenting, etc., that ultimately were left unresolved, left for the readers to figure out.

Yes, I had some minor issues with Supergirl Mixtapes, but not enough to say I didn’t really like this book. Supergirl Mixtapes truly was my kind of book – one that’s filled with both ups and downs, and fueled by music.

Top Ten Tuesday! The Top of My TBR (To Be Read) List

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(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. The above Top Ten Tuesday image is also from The Broke and The Bookish.)

Ahhh the never-ending to be read list. I’m often overwhelmed by it, but mostly I look forward to (someday) working my way through the list. Since my TBR list is never-ending, here’s my top ten book I hope to get to this year (in no particular order):

1. Out of Easy by Ruta Sepetys

2. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

4. False Sight by Dan Krokos

5. A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

6. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

7. Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

8. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

9. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

10. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Miracle

Book of the Week: Super Hair-o And the Barber of Doom

Super Hair-o And The Barber of Doom by John Rocco

Published: 2013 by Disney-Hyperion

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Little Rocco is a super-powered, superhero.

He has many super, awesome super powers. He can whoosh like the speed of light on his tire swing. He can catch slippery green frogs without the help of a net. And he can soar higher than any of his friends on his red bike.

Where do his superpowers come from though? Why, isn’t it obvious? His hair!

Rocco’s hair is this crazy mass of curls! And it is awesome.

But Rocco isn’t the only superhero. His friends are superheroes too, all who possess great powers.

And where do they get their powers from? You guessed it: their hair!

Yes, their hair is as zany as Rocco’s is.

Superheroes can get themselves out of any sticky situation.

That is, when they are captured by their dads.

Captured and dragged away to the villain’s lair, a.k.a. The Barber shop!

It’s at this point in the book where I like the “dun, dun, dun!” music would sound off.

I love how, at this point, the colors of the illustrations shift from full color to black and white as little Rocco is about to step foot into the lair.

I also love how the guy sitting in the barber’s chair has an old school handlebar mustache.

Even though Rocco protested, and struggled the barber’s powers overpowered Rocco’s superhero powers.

By the end, both Rocco’s hair and super-charged superpowers were virtually nonexistent.

By the time Rocco manages to escape the evil clutches of his capture, he’s so drained he can’t even make it back to his hideout.

Rocco fears that his superpowers have disappeared. If they have, how can he possibly be a superhero? And worse, what will his friends think?!?

I love how Rocco is an emotional character. His facial expressions give him away on every page.

Rocco does everything in his human powers to get his powers and his hair back. He uses plant, mops, and even his trusty sidekick Sam to help. But all were not helpful.

When he see his friends, he finds out that their superpowered hair has been stripped and cut away.

Even though they don’t like this, I will say this: they all look super cute with new, shorter hair.

The superheroes are obvious down in the dumps about their lost powers. That is, until a little, crazy-haired little girl is in need of superhero help.

Power surged. And the heroes spang into action, not worrying about their hair, or lack of.

The little girl’s doll was stranded on the monkey bars.

But the superheroes were there to save her!

Rocco and his friends are TRUE superheroes – people who are brave in the face of danger, and people who care about other even if they don’t know them.

I really loved this book! It was so much fun!

The illustrations are AWESOME! They really captured the spirit of the book and of little Rocco.

The writing is smart, and super-charged!

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased. I love John Rocco’s writing and illustrations! I think he’s genius!

But even if I wasn’t biased, Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom is a book that boys and girls, both young and old will love!