BIG THANKS to Katie, Adria and Random House Canada for helping me get a copy of this book for review!
“We Bought A Zoo” by Benjamin Mee
Published by Weinstein Books and Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd.
Rating: 3.5 stars
In “We Bought A Zoo”, Benjamin Mee tells the story of how his family came to buy the Dartmoor Zoological Park and the great lengths it took to revitalize the zoo and prepare it for opening day. I think this book is particularly appealing because it is so hard to imagine most people purchasing a zoo or even entertaining the idea of doing so. Hence, the mystery of it all! I was intrigued by the book’s topic and I just had to find out what Mee’s thought process was and the reasoning behind his family’s extraordinary acquisition.
From the start, Mee provides an in-depth analysis into the zoo-keeping business and leaves no details unexplored. Some of the information about animal grooming and sterilization seemed a bit excessive to have included and tended to distract from the story. However I do understand that Mee wanted to provide readers all of the facts, even if they seemed trivial, in order to paint the complete picture of what he had to cope with on a daily basis. The most interesting parts about the animals were their interactions with each other and their keepers. I also really liked the scenes that depicted the animal runaways which really gave a glimpse into how stressful and sometimes exciting managing a zoo can be. There are even some beautiful color photos of Mee’s family and ones of the noteworthy animals mentioned in the book!
While most of the book is dedicated to details of the zoo and Mee’s formal responsibilities to the zoo, the parts that talk about his wife Katherine and her illness are really touching. I enjoyed reading about their special relationship and how much Mee too care of her. It was nice to see the Mee’s caretaking side because it came in contrast to his required business-like manner while running the zoo.
With all the anticipation that had been building up while reading the book, the ending was incredibly satisfying. It is one of those books where the ending can be nothing but expected, and nonetheless I felt an immense sense of relief when reading about the zoo’s successful opening. I also felt proud of the Mee family for how much they had all accomplished and how they grew closer as a family, despite the hardships encountered along the way.
For more information about the Mee’s Dartmoor Zoological Park visit its website