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Don't Feed the Boy

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  56 reviews
No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That's because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It's one of the perks of having a mother who's the zoo director and a father who's the head elephant keeper. Now that he's eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it's easy to get overlooked. B ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
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Newbery 2013
68th out of 119 books — 1,170 voters
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Middle Grade Novels of 2012
112th out of 337 books — 631 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,398)
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Wendy
For some reason I found this incredibly tiresome. The writing isn't bad, and the zoo setting is lovely and well-realized, but many things about the premise and plot seemed off, and the protagonist seemed like a spoiled brat, destined for an adulthood as a Nice Guy. And if his name is supposed to be, literally, Whit Whitaker--that seemed very comic book and added to the non-realistic feel. Augh. So much irritated me about the characters and their backstories and what kept feeling like apologia. Y ...more
Patricia Weaver
Whit is ready to escape... the zoo!! He feels controlled, isolated ... caged.
Stephanie Graegin did a great job with the illustrations. My favorite is Whit and Stella (aka Bird Girl) at the Flamingo enclosure.
Don’t Feed the Boy is a wonderful read that covers all the spectrums of a pre-teen’s rollercoaster emotions. Throw in a new friendship, an escaped cobra and a fire: and you have the ingredients for a great book.
Cindy Hudson
Lots of kids probably dream of living the life 11-year-old Whit lives: his parents care for the local zoo, and he lives on the property with them. But life with the animals isn’t always so great. For one thing, Whit has a tutor, which means he doesn’t go to the local school and he doesn’t get to meet other kids. Also, his parents seem to care more for the animals than they do for him, and he has strict rules that don’t even allow him to leave the property.

Then one day he meets a girl named Stell
...more
Kristen
First Impression: I always love going into a book not knowing much at all. I find myself enjoying a surprising amount of books that contain no fantasy or paranormal elements lately so I was looking forward to this one.

While Reading: Whit often feels like his parents really should never have had a child, especially when they treat the animals at the zoo with more care than they do him. Because he is not allowed to leave the zoo, Whit finds himself confined to the premises until he meets the Bird
...more
Alison Hertz
I really enjoyed Irene Latham's DON'T FEED THE BOY. Whit, the mc, pulls you into his zoo and teaches you about what it is like to live there. He even sprinkles in animal facts without sounding preachy. He hates his zoo home or at least thinks he does and feels the need to escape but what he really needs is a friend - a human one who understands the need to leave your surroundings and experience someone else's life every once in a while. He finds that person in Stella - who has quite a few issues ...more
Susan P
Whit has grown up at the zoo. His mother is the director and his father the head elephant keeper. Most kids might think this is a great way of life, but Whit feels like his parents care more about the animals than they do about him. One day he notices a girl about his own age drawing pictures of the birds. As he gets to know her better he finds out her name is Stella. It turns out that Stella is spending a lot of time at the zoo b/c it's safer than being at her house with her abusive, alcoholic ...more
Lee Födi
Whit is an eleven-year-old boy who is homeschooled . . . but "home" is the key word here, because Whit lives at a zoo run by his parents. So Whit's days are filled with all sorts of activities that normal kids wouldn't dream of. The problem for Whit is that he hates the zoo. When he meets Stella, he finds a kindred spirit—they both crave freedom.

In so many ways, this is a very sweet book. I loved the setting of the zoo and getting to meet all of the different animals that populated it. The prob
...more
Suzanne
The old saying goes, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Whit has grown up living in a zoo because his mother is the zoo director and his dad is the head elephant trainer. Whit feels like he is always second to the zoo. He knows that his mom turned up unexpectedly pregnant with him, and he feels that they do not really want him. He feels like he is just a bother to them. He would rather be anywhere but the zoo where he is home-schooled by a tutor. He just wants to be w ...more
Bradley Morrison


This is a delightful story that everyone, young and old, will relate to. If you’re a lover of animals you’ll be happy to know that there are alot of animal facts in this book.

The story shows different people with different problems and how they deal with them.(Very realistic.)

It didn’t end the way I thought it would and that’s always nice to see.(I love a surprise ending!)

So, take a trip to the zoo and meet Whit, Stella, and the rest of the gang. You won’t be disappointed!
Savannah Spaulding
This story is about a boy who lives in a zoo full time and even does home school in order to not have to leave the zoo. The reason for this is because his mother is zoo director and his father is a zookeeper. He meets a girl who he becomes friends with, and realizes that being her friend entails breaking the rules of his parents and testing himself. He finally has someone his own age to talk to and he does not want to give that up because he has to stay inside the zoo. I thought this book had a ...more
Mandy
Although eleven year old Whit lives at a busy location the zoo, he is extremely lonely and wants a friend more than anything. When “Bird Girl” or Stella fills that empty void, Whit finds that having Stella as a friend is both fulfilling and challenging at the same time.
Barbara
A beautifully written story. On the surface it's about a boy who lives in the zoo. His mom is the zoo director and his dad's head elephant keeper, so it makes sense . . . sort of. But there are deeper layers to this novel and it has unexpected turns. Moving and lovely.
Rachel
Reviewed for the Emmet O'Neal Library Children's Department. Click here to access the children's portion of the review.
Lu
Well, yes, it does teach lesson about how some people have it better than they think until they learn about someone who has it worse. But really, going on and on about how his parents ignore him and how he stays all the time at the zoo. Do these people not do any grocery shopping, clothes shopping, etc.? And they seriously don't have him enrolled in anything to give him an idea about life away from the zoo? The premise was too much for me on that side. I actually was more sympathetic to the girl ...more
BamaGirl
I loved this book! Perfect for my fourth grade students!
Kim Patton
Whit knows about the zoo because his life is the zoo. He lives at the zoo that his parents run and even though they love the zoo, he does not. He is homeschooled by a private tutor so he never leaves the zoo. When he's given a summer assignment to study a species in the zoo, he chooses a girl that frequents the zoo often. Bird Girl, he eventually learns, chooses to escape to the zoo when Whit is trying to escape from the zoo. The two become friends and learn that life is not perfect on either si ...more
Linda Atkinson
quick read;great story
Jill
The main character of this middle grade chapter book is 11-year-old Whit Whitaker, a boy who has lived his whole life at Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama. His mother is the director of the zoo, and his father is head elephant keeper. Whit is home-schooled, so his only friends thus far have been the animals. Moreover, his parents seem to care more about those animals than him, and he resents it.

One day he meets a young girl, Stella, who comes to the zoo by herself to draw birds. They become friends and
...more
Linda
I love middle grade books. Although they can be serious, as this book is, there is usually a good resolution because of certain actions of the main characters. In Don’t Feed The Boy, the main character Whit is being raised in a zoo with a personal tutor instead of school because his parents are the zoo managers and feel that this situation for their son is the best possible. They believe that his world is exciting because they love it so much, but unfortunately Whit has other wishes.
At 11, Whi
...more
Natalie
I won a copy of Don't Feed the Boy through goodreads (thank you!) and was really excited to read it, mostly because I love zoos. This is a children's book that seems best suited for middle school aged children.

THE GIST OF IT:
Whit is an eleven-year-old boy who quite literally lives at the zoo with his parents. His father is the elephant caretaker and his mother is the director of the zoo. Whit is not allowed to leave the property and has grown very bored of the zoo, which he knows every nook an
...more
Dawn
This was an interesting read for me. I almost didn't finish it. It really didn't grab me for about the first 80 pages. Page 81 was where it really got interesting.

I don't think this book would be a great one for my current grade 3 class, nor for book club. The book focuses on issues that are a little older than my kids. Whit develops a friendship with Stella that is a little obsessive. He also makes some really bad choices. Although, discussing the things he did would be quite interesting in boo
...more
Erik This Kid Reviews Books
What 11 year-old kid wouldn’t LOVE to live in a zoo??? Whit Whitaker, that’s who! Whit did not like living in a zoo, but he had no choice. His mom was the zoo director and his dad was the elephant keeper, but his parents seem more interested in the animals than him. Whit hated living at the zoo. He wasn’t allowed to go out of the zoo at all. He was even home schooled (or is that zoo schooled?) right in the zoo by a tutor. Whit didn’t have any friends and parents that didn’t know he existed most ...more
Jillian A
The theme in the book "Don't Feed The Boy", is about taking chances. The reader of this book comes to understand, that the author's perspective on life is how life is not always fair. In the book "Don't Feed The Boy", the main character is a young boy named Whit, who lives at the Zoo with his Mom and Dad. Whit absolutely hates the Zoo and wishes he could live as far away away from it as possible, until he meets Stella. Whit has never had any true friends and is overjoyed when he and Stella beco ...more
Terri
There are many things to like about this book. Whit's thoughts are often lyrical, and his emotions are profound. Information about animals is included in a natural, logical context. The resolution and conclusion are strong and morally, ethically sound. But the whole incident with the gun keeps me from giving a high rating. There are so many things wrong with these events that I can't ignore them. First, Whit illegally enters Stella's apartment with the intent to steal her father's gun. Then Juan ...more
Emmet O'Neal Library- Children's Department
Whit lives at the Meadowbrook Zoo, where his mother is the director and his father keeps the elephants – and they both seem to care more about the animals and the zoo than they do about Whit. His homeschool teacher Ms. Connie really gets him, but what Whit really wants is a friend his own age.

So when he gets up the courage to talk to the Bird Girl, who comes every day to draw birds, they strike up a close friendship. He even breaks his parents rules and leaves the zoo to walk to Stella’s nearby
...more
Emily
Read this book to see if it might make for a good read aloud. I liked the storyline, but thought the boy/girl friendship might have my fourth graders squirming in their seats. Whit's the son of the zookeepers and having grown up in the zoo with a private tutor, didn't have any close friends. When Stella starts showing up at the zoo every day this summer, Whit takes a notice and a friendship ensues. A fine read for my classroom library.
Ashleyd
Chapter Book/ Grade 5/6

Whit a tween boy lives at a zoo in Alabama. Dispite his wild surroundings he feels like a caged animal due to being homeschooled, never meeting people his own age, and not being alowed to leave the zoo grounds. While doing a summer project to study an animal he chooses a girl, named Stella, that he sees everyday at the zoo. He soon learns that he isn't the only child stuck in a bad situation. Stella lives with her mother in a very dangerous domestic violence situation. Her
...more
Laura Salas
Don't Feed the Boy
by Irene Latham
Roaring Brook Press, 2012

Whit lives at the zoo with his parents, who are obsessed with the animals. Whit is not. He's tired of playing second fiddle to elephants and monkeys and wants to explore life outside the zoo. When Whit falls for Bird Girl (Stella), he learns that her family life is much more troubled than his own. But that makes Whit's family struggles no less important. Whit has to learn to speak up for himself in his own family, as well as figure out wh
...more
Drucilla
Oct 12, 2014 Drucilla rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: l
I really liked how realistically the author portrayed Stella's home life and Whit's relationship with his parents. Latham doesn't talk down to her readers. I feel like the plot was a little bumpy but it was interesting enough to keep me from minding.
Jennifer
I was drawn in by the main character, Whit, and felt an emotional connection to this story from the beginning. Always a definite plus for any good book.

Why kids will love it - The emotions of Whit and Stella are common for many tweens. Readers may understand things in their own lives better by reading how Whit and Stella deal with their own unique situations. For kids that have grown up going to the zoo, reading about what happens behind the scenes might interest them.

What I learned as a writer
...more
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Irene Latham is a poet and novelist who was born the middle child and first daughter of five kids.

Irene has lived all sorts of places and traveled worldwide. Since 1984 she has called Birmingham, Alabama, home.

She thinks growing up with three brothers was great preparation for raising her three sons. She also thinks getting a sister was one of the best things that has ever happened to her.

Irene i
...more
More about Irene Latham...
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