Sunday, March 21, 2010

Children’s Books: Ortega by Maureen Fergus

Though I don’t generally like books for children that spend a lot of time trying to teach a thing or two, I liked Maureen Fergus’ Ortega (KidsCan Press) quite a bit. This despite the fact that lessons are thick on the ground in this book.

The subtexts come fast and furious in Ortega. Judge people by who they are, not who they appear to be. Don't hate people because they're different. ASk questions about what you see in the world: things may not always be as they appear. Even if you feel as if you do not belong, finding a place for yourself might be easier than you think.

The title’s Ortega is a lowland gorilla, abandoned shortly after birth. He’s raised in a laboratory and seems practically human to the scientists who care for him. But the children only see his differences, not the things that make him be like them.

Ortega is a thoughtful, considered book from the author of Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero. Children aged nine to 12 will find much to engage them: good-spirited humor combined with intelligent consideration of some topics important to the generation who will read it: issues of ethics, the environment and how we, as humans, fit into and interact with our world. Heavy issues, but handled with spirt and humanity. Ortega is a very good book.

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