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Life of Pi
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi is the story an Indian zookeeper's son, who survives a shipwreck. Though Pi generally describes his many days at sea as monotonous, he also describes the sexual behavior of zoo animals and relates tales of danger and survival with great tension, using elaborate detail to describe wild animals killing and eating each other and humans killing and eating animals. The novel also includes acts of murder and cannibalism. This is a gory book, no question, and not recommended for the squeamish. Parents might also note that Pi forms his own belief system from the teachings of the Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim religions, saying that he simply wants to "love God."
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What's the story?
Yann Martel's novel LIFE OF PI is the story of Piscine Molitor Patel, who likes to be called \"Pi\" because children made fun of his name, calling him \"Pissing\" when he was a boy. Pi grows up in India with his brother, Ravi, his mom, and his dad, who runs a zoo. As a boy, Pi struggles with the identity issues connected with his name and with his personal belief system. He visits leaders of three different religions, and joins the Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim faiths. When Pi's parents decide to move their family to Canada, the Patels board a Japanese cargo ship that will take them and some of the zoo animals to North America. However, disaster strikes the ship and Pi must battle for survival. Most of the book is a narration of Pi's time at sea. The film adaptation of Life of Pi is scheduled for Nov. 21, 2012, release.
Is it any good?
Life of Pi is a fascinating and original story of survival and identity. Martel creates a wonderfully realized, clever character in Pi, and a unique world of home, zoo, school, and various houses of various gods. The bit where all three religious figures realize that Pi has joined their faith is quite funny, and so wise. Readers have come to love Pi by the time his ship sinks, and every terrifying, bloody struggle he faces is met with intelligence and frought with tension. This is a smart, absorbing novel, although, given its gory descriptions, not a book to be enjoyed with a meal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the lesson Pi's father teaches his sons with the tiger and the goat. Why is this important in Life of Pi, and how does this experience affect Pi's ability to survive in the lifeboat?
Which of Pi's stories do you believe?
What do you make of Pi's religious inclusiveness? Does it make sense to you? Can people believe in more than one faith?
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