Reviews for Don't Feed the Boy
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Feeling trapped in his home--a zoo--Whit, eleven, craves contact with the outside world so much that he makes a field study of Bird Girl, a peer named Stella. The narrative moves slowly, but the well-drawn characters handle themes of family, abuse, and freedom without being schmaltzy or grim. Judiciously placed pencil illustrations evoke tender moments.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
Raised in the Alabama zoo run by his busy parents, 11-year-old Whit dreams of escape, but his new friend Stella is someone whose need for escape is real. Avoiding an angry, abusive father, Stella spends her days at the zoo, where she first becomes the subject for Whit's home-schooling field study and then his first real friend. Before he learns her name, Whit calls her Bird Girl because she constantly draws the birds--ironic because these birds can't fly free; their wings are clipped. In the course of their friendship, Whit experiments with freedom himself. Leaving the zoo boundaries, he visits Stella's smoke-smelling apartment home, seeing the situation for himself and even taking surprising action. Whit's zoo is realistic, a place where animals are born and die. He shows off its secret places, and readers get a glimpse behind the scenes. He comes to see it as a place families and friends visit as much to enjoy each other as to see the attractions, learning to appreciate it more. Latham weaves in a strong argument for the conservation mission of zoos and a clear warning about the dangers of handguns. A satisfying ending sees Whit poised to enter the wider world of public middle school. Feed this to animal fans. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 March/April
Eleven-year-old Whit Whitaker lives in a zoo where both his parents work. He envies children who go to school. For his summer field study, Whit decides to study a human being who comes to the zoo alone each day. Stella is escaping from her disabled father who sits with a gun under his chair, popping pain pills and watching TV. Stella runs away from her family and hides, with Whit's help, at the zoo. When Whit tells his mother about Stella, it leads to positive changes for both families. Stella and her mom move in with relatives while her dad goes to rehab. Whit's parents finally send him to school. Although interesting information is infused with the story, animal lovers may be disappointed in Whit's lack of engagement. However, readers who feel they are outsiders will recognize Whit's feelings and may better understand the importance of communication with adults. Elizabeth Dejean, Teacher Librarian, P.S. 360, Bronx, New York [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #4
Living at the zoo sounds pretty sweet, but 11-year-old Whit has soured on the experience, having spent his whole life at the Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama, which is run by his busy and distracted parents. Both Whit's parents and his homeschool teacher, Ms. Connie, have taught him a great deal about exotic animals, though he'd rather be surrounded by a more ordinary species: other kids. When Whit notices a girl who visits the zoo each day to sketch the birds, he sets his heart on getting to know the "Bird Girl" and finally making a friend his own age. Unfortunately, being a good friend to "Bird Girl," whose actual name is Stella and who has troubles at home, involves taking dangerous risks and breaking rules that test Whit's courage and his parents' trust. The unusual setting and the characters' tricky family dynamics add tension and zest to Latham's (Leaving Gee's Bend) empathetic friendship tale, as do Graegin's pencil drawings, which portray the story's upsetting and uplifting moments with gentleness. Readers won't soon forget Whit and Stella's adventures. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2012 December
Gr 3-6--Growing up in a zoo should be full of adventures, but 11-year-old Whit is bored by the same routine, his homeschooling, and his lack of human friends. His father is the elephant trainer and fond of giving lectures about when he was a boy, and his mother is so absorbed with her position as Meadowbrook Zoo Director that she barely notices her son. When a girl starts showing up daily to draw the birds, Whit is intrigued and determined to make friends. After dubbing her the Bird Girl, he learns that his new friend is there to escape a troubled home. Whit feels the desire to help, but suddenly he is drawn in too far. Things come to a head when Bird Girl asks him for a favor that he's not comfortable doing. While Latham's plot has promise, her delivery is lackluster. This is solid storytelling, but there is very little tension, even in the scenes with Bird Girl's volatile father. Character development is somewhat thin, and the illustrations, while probably meant to mimic the drawings in Bird Girl's sketchbook, give the book a much younger feel than its intended audience. It's an uneasy cohesion.--Jamie Kallio, Orland Park Public Library, IL [Page 122]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.