Threatened

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Threatened Book Poster Image
Intense wilderness-survival tale warns of chimpanzee peril.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a lot about chimpanzee behavior and the dangers to the chimps and their environment. They'll also learn a bit about the phenomenon of AIDS orphans in Africa and about wilderness survival skills. The extensive Further Reading section provides lots of information resources about chimpanzees. The How to Help section may spur kids to take action to help protect chimpanzees and their environment and to help end the practice of using them for medical research.

 

Positive Messages

This tremendously uplifting, positive wilderness survival story vividly spotlights the dangers to chimpanzee survival, in the wild and in captivity. The message comes across though the Professor that the underlying reason people hurt each other and animals is selfishness. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hero and narrator Luc, who's about 12, is a great role model of loyalty, caring, and resilience in the face of hardship. A very clever problem-solver, he comes up with inventive solutions to difficulties, and he's willing to fight when necessary to protect those he cares for. He's an orphan, so there are few adults in his life: the bad guy to whom he's indebted, Monsieur Tatagani; the mysterious Professor on a research expedition, who models academic achievement and giving people second chances; and the wildlife photographer Madame Osgood, who graciously respects Luc's judgment and wishes.

Violence

The characters are frequently in peril, with dangers around every corner. Blood is mentioned frequently; two or three dead bodies are described briefly, without gratuitous gore. There's a lot of violence among the animals, with the chimpanzees sometimes hitting and attacking one another. In one instance narrator Luc gives a detailed account of the blows and resulting pain when he's attacked by a chimpanzee. There's some detail about bush animals killed and sold for meat. The Author's Note goes into brief detail about the cruelties of using chimpanzees for medical research. Survival in the wilderness involves lots of squishing insects -- and some detail about how pulling the heads off large insects pulls out their guts at the same time.

Sex

Luc mentions his nakedness a couple of times once his clothes disintegrate in the jungle. He doesn't describe or mention any body parts except once when he mentions both his and a chimpanzee's bare butts.

Language

"Pee," "turd," and "butts" are each mentioned once.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer at the cafe where Luc works, and beer made from fermented bananas is mentioned a couple of times. Once, Monsieur Tatagani smells of palm wine, and a monkey is described as "sprawled like a drunken man."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Threatened, a follow-up to National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer's Endangered, is an exciting wilderness survival story that encourages kids to take action to save chimpanzees and their habitat. Humans and animals are in almost constant peril. Violence, mostly among animals or in a wilderness-survival context, isn't gory; some harsh realities, including dead bodies of both humans and animals, appear in brief descriptions. Young readers may need help coping with powerful feelings of fear and anxiety. Supplemental information at the back of the book describes the cruelties chimpanzees suffer when they're used for medical research and suggests ways kids can help save them.

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What's the story?

Set in the small African country of Gabon, THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer follows the adventures of orphaned 12-year-old Luc, who's hired by the Professor to help research chimpanzees in the jungle. But because of his now-dead mother's large hospital bills, Luc owes a lot of money to Monsieur Tatagani, who's determined to get Luc back from the jungle to work off the debt. When the Professor mysteriously disappears, Luc's left alone to survive in the jungle with only the chimpanzees for company and guidance. Taught from an early age to fear chimpanzees, he learns to overcome his fears and be accepted by the troop. But when the outside world finally tracks him down, he'll face a tough decision about his own future and that of the chimpanzees.

Is it any good?

Kids will be thrilled and entertained by the exciting action in Threatened and find it easy to relate to orphan Luc as he bravely and cleverly sets about surviving in the wild. His chimpanzee companions, along with an adorable vervet monkey pet named Omar, also become intriguing, delightful characters. The book is a deliberate attempt to make kids aware of the chimpanzees' plight and encourage them to take action; some details might be upsetting to preteens and to animal lovers in particular.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the real threats to chimpanzees, in the wild and in captivity. Which human activities put them most at risk?

  • Does the fictional story help readers understand the problems chimpanzees face? If the problem is real, why not write a nonfiction book about it? 

  • Does Luc's story make you want to do something to help chimpanzees? What are some things you could do?

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