Thursday, June 30, 2011
The boy who whispered to animals
Sixteen-year-old Ted O’Connor is a rather odd teenager, who had extremely odd parents. His entire world was made up of work at the family pet shop (including the animal waifs and strays his mother adopted) and being bullied at school for being “different.” That world fell apart when his parents died in a fiery car crash.
No money was left to sustain him, so Ted is left to the tender mercies of clumsy social workers and semi-psycho foster parents. His fellow foster kids, C.W. and Astin, look almost normal, compared to the middle-aged couple that is caring for them. They also provide the first friendly company Ted has experienced in many a long month.
Ted has one saving grace – well, it saves his sanity on occasion, though it doesn’t help make him look any less different. He can converse with animals. He has really interesting and reassuring conversations with cats, dogs, and lions, often studded with wryly amusing observations on life.
This truly original and remarkable book is not a cute fantasy in the Dr. Doolittle mould, but the story of a boy’s transition from a lonely affinity with animals to the complexities, gains, and losses that come from rediscovering his humanity.
Though classed as a children’s book, Strays has a message for all ages. Thoroughly recommended.