Monday, December 6, 2010

Ortega, by Maureen Fergus

Ortega is no ordinary 11-year-old. Sure he enjoys hanging out with his friends, disagrees with his mom on a regular basis and is trying to find where he belongs in his new middle school. But the most interesting thing about Ortega is that he's actually a GORILLA! Scientists taught him to talk, read and write from an early age as part of "Project Ortega", an experiment whose goal was to see if a wild animal could be integrated into human society. Dr. Susan, the only mother he has ever known, is Ortega's fiercest champion as he awkwardly tries to blend into middle school life. For not all of Ortega's classmates nor their parents are thrilled to have a enormous gorilla in their midst. When one of the scientists on the team decides to sell Ortega and abandon the experiment, Dr. Susan must find a way to show everyone that Ortega is more than just a science project.

The author does a fantastic job of conveying the conflicting animal/human elements of Ortega's personality, while mirroring the adolescent angst that any typical 11-year-old experiences. Told with humor and heart this tale will appeal to a wide range of audiences while bringing to mind the issues of discrimination and animal as well as human rights. 2010.

P. Sassoon

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