Saturday, March 26, 2011

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

I just finished reading the most amazing book Half Brother. One of my students, Jacob read it earlier this year and I borrowed it from him because it was on my to be read list. I absolutely loved this book! I need to go out and get a copy of it for my classroom.

Half Brother is set in the 1970's and is the story of a family of scientists who decide to adopt a chimpanzee named Zan and try to teach him to communicate. The father is a university professor who is overseeing the project. He keeps Zan at a distance and tries to be a casual observer. The mother is Zan's main care giver, while at the same time working on her PhD paper. Then there is Ben- he is 13 when the story starts and isn't too happy to have his life turned upside down and to have a new member in his family. Slowly Zan grows on Ben and soon Ben loves Zan like a brother. The story follows the experiment through a series of successes and setbacks that cause the characters to grow, adapt and change.

I found this story to be so moving. Ben's relationship with his father, his friends, girls and most of all Zan are so real and powerful. Oppel really captured what it is like to be 13 years old. The connection between Ben and Zan is really beautiful. Ben sees Zan as more than an animal, he loves him and the communication between the two of them is really incredible. This story brought me to tears, but it also made me laugh as I was reading it. I think it would make a great read aloud, there are so many discussion points that you could bring up while reading this. It reminded me a bit of Eric Walters book Elixir. I also know many kids will love it as much as I did.


  1. I agree with your comments on this book. I enjoyed it because I could really connect since I am around the same age as the main character Ben.
    Jacob T

  2. i love this book
    best book ever

  3. it was very good book because it wasnt just all action like other books

  4. What age would you suggest for readers of this book? Is my big reader too young at 10?

  5. Hi Carla- I think age 10 is just fine. It's a really great story.

  6. i love this story, we are reading it as a class and its such a great story! Oppel captured us from the beginning and doesnt let go of our attention, thats for darn sure!!

    grade 7

  7. It is a great story Alexis! I was at a school the other day and some kids were reading Ortega that looked very similar to Half Brother. It might be one you want to check out.

    Here's the link: