Published by Roaring Brook Press on October 16th 2012
No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That's because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It's one of the perks of having a mother who's the zoo director and a father who's the head elephant keeper. Now that he's eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it's easy to get overlooked.
But when Whit notices a mysterious girl who visits every day to draw the birds, suddenly the zoo becomes much more interesting. Who is the Bird Girl? And why does she come by herself to the zoo? Determined to gain her trust, Whit takes the Bird Girl on his own personal tour of the zoo. He shows her his favorite animals and what happens with them behind the scenes. For Whit, having a friend his own age that he can talk to is an exciting new experience. For Stella the Bird Girl, the zoo and Whit are a necessary escape from her chaotic home life. Together they take risks in order to determine where it is they each belong. But when Stella asks Whit for an important and potentially dangerous favor, Whit discovers how complicated friendship and freedom-- can be.
I always love going into a book not knowing much at all. I find myself enjoying a surprising amount of books that contain no fantasy or paranormal elements lately so I was looking forward to this one. Whit often feels like his parents really should never have had a child, especially when they treat the animals at the zoo with more care than they do him. Because he is not allowed to leave the zoo, Whit finds himself confined to the premises until he meets the Bird Girl, who always is sitting near the birds and drawing quietly. He finds out that Stella's (the Bird Girl) life may be a lot harder than his own and he learns that maybe his life isn't so bad after all.
I loved the elements of this story, adding in different topics that young readers may be facing and find themselves "escaping" from their homes to a happier place. Both Stella and Whit have unstable families that are consumed in themselves more than their children. They find there way on a couple of different adventures and perilous situations as they spend more time together.
I couldn't put this book down for long because I began to care so much for Whit and Stella and their need for friendship and love. Don't Feed the Boy is a more touching tale than I originally thought it would be and one I would highly recommend.
If you're looking for an interesting contemporary middle grade novel, look no further. You'll find a wonderful story and realistic character. And honestly, who doesn't love the zoo?