Monday, June 28, 2010

bonobo handshake review

today my kids checked out the book and cd curious george.  i'm sure i enjoyed reading that book well enough when i was growing up, but i find that i really take issue with it now.  for one thing, why do the firemen have to be such big, bad meanies?  why does the man with the yellow hat find it perfectly acceptable to leave a monkey all alone, a monkey he has just recently captured from the wild, with the words, "now be a good little monkey"?

i knew all this when they checked it out, but it is a classic so we got it and started listening to it in the car.  i realized how much i hated what was happening in the book almost immediately when i heard the words, "The man picked him up quickly and popped him into a bag.  George was caught."  Why do we want to send our kids the message that this behavior is appropriate?

i feel even more strongly about this after reading bonobo handshake by vanessa woods.  if ever there was a book that was difficult to classify, this one is it.

in some ways it is a history book:  i learned more about the history of africa then i have learned in a long time.  i had no idea what a complex and bloody history the nations on africa, the congo in particular, have had.

it is also a social commentary.  i'm now aware of the effect that my desire for gold, diamonds, even an upgraded cell phone can have on the people and bonobo monkeys of the congo.  i think i might just be content with something a little less costly to life after reading this book.

it is also a book about a marriage.  i learned from vanessa's ups and downs in her marriage how to have a better attitude in managing my own marriage's ups and downs.

finally (?), this book is a romance:  not a romance about a man and woman falling in love, but a romance about how a woman fell in love with a relatively unknown group of monkeys.  after you read this book, it will be hard for you not to do the same. 

the bonobos are often mistaken for chimpanzees but they differ from chimpanzees in some pretty significant and absolutely admirable ways.  along with vanessa we learn about ourselves as she and her husband learn through a variety of studies about the makeup and psychology of the bonobo monkeys.

i can't say this is the most well written book i have ever read, but as i read, i found myself more and more engaged in the story of the bonobos.  because of vanessa's ability to bring the variety of personalities and character traits of the different inhabitants of the reserve in the congo, i now will follow with greater attention and awareness the fate and future of the bonobos.

and maybe make sure to have a good discussion with my kids when we read a book like curious george...

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