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We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever [NOOK Book]

Overview

The remarkable true story of a family who move into a rundown zoo–already a BBC documentary miniseries and excerpted in The Guardian.

In the market for a house and an adventure, Benjamin Mee moved his family to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. His friends and colleagues thought he was crazy.

But in 2006, Mee and his wife with their two ...

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We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever

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Overview

The remarkable true story of a family who move into a rundown zoo–already a BBC documentary miniseries and excerpted in The Guardian.

In the market for a house and an adventure, Benjamin Mee moved his family to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. His friends and colleagues thought he was crazy.

But in 2006, Mee and his wife with their two children, his brother, and his 76-year-old mother moved into the Dartmoor Wildlife Park. Their extended family now included: Solomon, an African lion and scourge of the local golf course; Zak, the rickety Alpha wolf, a broadly benevolent dictator clinging to power; Ronnie, a Brazilian tapir, easily capable of killing a man, but hopelessly soppy; and Sovereign, a jaguar and would-be ninja, who has devised a long term escape plan and implemented it.

Nothing was easy, given the family’s lack of experience as zookeepers, and what follows is a magical exploration of the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy. We Bought a Zoo is a profoundly moving portrait of an unforgettable family living in the most extraordinary circumstances.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602860681
  • Publisher: Weinstein Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 449,574
  • File size: 433 KB

Meet the Author

Benjamin Mee, a former newspaper columnist, is known for his humorous Do It Yourself column in the UK’s Guardian Weekend. In 2005 he published a collection of these articles in a volume entitled The Call of DIY: A Toolkit of Practical Wisdom. He holds a degree in psychology and spends his time studying animal behavior.

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Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Mum and I arrived as the new owners Wildlife Park in Devon for the first time at around six o’clock on the evening of 20 October 2006, and stepped out of the car to the sound of wolves howling in the misty darkness. My brother Duncan had turned on every light in the house to welcome us, and each window beamed the message into the fog as he emerged from the front door to give me a bone-crushing bear hug. He was more gentle with Mum. We had been delayed for an extra day in Leicester with the lawyers, as some last-minute paperwork failed to arrive in time and had to be sent up the M1 on a motorbike. Duncan had masterminded the movement of all Mum’s furniture from Surrey in three vans, with eight men who had another job to go to the next day. The delay had meant a fraught standoff in the entryway to the park, with the previous owner’s lawyer eventually conceding that Duncan could unload the vans, but only into two rooms (one of them the fetid front kitchen) until the paperwork was completed.

So the three of us picked our way in wonderment between teetering towers of boxes and into the flagstoned kitchen, which was relatively uncluttered and, we thought, could make a good center of operations. A huge old trestle table I had been hoarding in my parents’ garage for twenty years finally came into its own, and was erected in a room suited to its size. It’s still there as our dining-room table, but on this first night its symbolic value was immense. Some boxes and carpets Duncan had managed to store in the back pantry had just been flooded, so while he unblocked the drain outside I drove to a Chinese takeout I’d spotted on the way from Route A38, and we sat down to our first meal together in our new home. Our spirits were slightly shaky but elated, and we laughed a lot in this cold, dark, chaotic house on that first night, and took inordinate comfort from the fact that at least we lived near a good Chinese place.

That night, with Mum safely in bed, Duncan and I stepped out into the misty park to try to get a grip on what we’d done. Everywhere the flashlight shone, eyes of different sizes blinked back at us, and without a clear idea of the layout of the park at this stage, the mystery of exactly what animals lurked behind them added greatly to the atmosphere. We knew where the tigers were, however, and made our way over to one of the enclosures that had been earmarked for replacement posts to get a close look at what sort of deterioration we were up against. With no tigers in sight, we climbed over the stand-off barrier and began peering by flashlight at the base of the structural wooden posts holding up the chain-link fence. We squatted down and became engrossed, prodding and scraping at the surface layers of rotted wood to find the harder core, in this instance reassuringly near the surface. We decided it wasn’t so bad, but as we stood up were startled to see that all three tigers in the enclosure were now only a couple of feet away from where we were standing, ready to spring, staring intently at us. Like we were dinner.

It was fantastic. All three beasts — and they were such glorious beasts — had maneuvered to within pawing distance of us without either of us noticing. Each animal was bigger than both of us put together, yet they’d moved silently. If this had been the jungle or, more accurately in this case, the Siberian tundra, the first thing we'd have known about it would have been a large mouth around our necks. Tigers have special sensors along the front of their two-inch canines that can detect the pulse in your aorta. The first bite is to grab, then they take your pulse with their teeth, reposition them, and sink them in.

As they held us in their icy glares, we were impressed. Eventually, one of these vast, muscular cats — acknowledging that due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e., the fence between us), this had been a mere dress rehearsal — yawned, flashed those curved dagger canines, and looked away. We remained impressed.

We started back toward the house. The wolves began their eery night chorus, accompanied by the sounds of owls — there were about fifteen on site — the odd screech of an eagle, and the nocturnal danger call of the vervet monkeys as we walked past their cage. This was what it was all about, we felt. All we had to do now was work out what to do next.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 114 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(58)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(10)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2011

    Umm....debatable

    I haven't seen the movie, but I think the book is pretty good. I see that other reviewers say it was confusing, or that the movie made it more understandable--if that's a word--but I think the book is only confusing if you don't know what it's talking about.

    I understood a lot of it, and I was pretty moved by it, but that may be just because I'm an animal lover.

    14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Yes, they were a little nuts.

    Benjamin Mee and his family were more than a little crazy when they decided to buy a dilapidated zoo, complete with lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But as you read, starting from the initial idea and following all the way through opening day, you will laugh, cry, and be amazed right along with the author. You'll meet Sovereign, the amazing escaping jaguar, Ronnie the tapir, and Zak, the elderly alpha wolf. You'll also meet Amelia, Ben's mother, Katherine, his wife, their two children (who are so lucky for being able to grow up in a zoo), and the wide variety of characters who make up the staff. After reading the book, stop by the zoo's website, http://www.dartmoorzoologicalpark.co.uk, and see what's new at Ben's zoo.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    In Benjamin Mee’s bestselling memoir, he uproots his famil

    In Benjamin Mee’s bestselling memoir, he uproots his family and moves to England when his brothers join him in his dream business venture that involves buying and restoring a run-down zoo. Benjamin’s inexperience and the death of his wife take a heavy toll on the project, but he keeps moving forward. As he and his crew work on the restoration, bonds are formed, animals escape, and chaos ensues. In the end, the hard work and motivation payed off, and now the Dartmoor Zoological Park is incredibly successful.
    From the start of We Bought A Zoo, it becomes obvious that this is not just a book of animal stories. It is a book of dreams and struggles, family and friends, and learning how to move forward after a tragedy. The themes in this book are quite cliche, but presented in a way that’s hardly cheesy. Follow your dreams, don’t give up when the going gets tough, take something bad and make something good come from it, and work hard for what you want are some of the most prevalent ones.
    My favorite segments of the book were the ones that involved the animals. The stories about them are heartwarming and usually laugh-out-loud funny or even jaw-dropping. I also love the behind the scenes look at how a zoo is run. The stories of Katherine’s cancer and struggles with it add so much emotion to the story. I never thought I could laugh, cry, and be shocked all within the course of reading two pages, but I was on more than one occasion while reading We Bought A Zoo. I would have enjoyed even more animal stories, but there were enough to keep me satisfied. The only major complaint I have is this: I disliked how much time was spent discussing the actual buying process and finances involved with obtaining the zoo. I was looking forward to animals and adventure, but before that, I got a huge dose of money issues and bank terms I don’t even know about yet. However, I still loved the book.
    Definitely read this book if you like going to the zoo. It gives a pretty good depiction about what’s going on behind the scenes and what happens when animals need veterinary care. This is also a great book for animal lovers, as these are some of the most entertaining animal stories I’ve ever read. This would not be a great book for children, as it has some swearing and would probably be hard for them to follow. For everyone else, I would definitely recommend it, even if you’re not that into animals or the zoo. It is filled with human emotion and strong family bonds. If you are an animal lover, I would also highly recommend the works of James Herriot, the country veterinarian.
    Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    The best book ever

    The book is the coolest I've ever read

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Anonymous

    I think the movie was bettr i saw it this morning it was much easier to understand but the book was pretty good.read it if u want though

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Poorly written....

    Amazing story, but very weakly written...

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2011

    Loved it!

    I had this book sitting in my nook wish list for quite some time and when I learned they were making a movie about it, I decided it was time to finally buy it and read it. I can't believe I waited so long! The book was well-written and humorous. I applaud Ben Mee and his family for taking on a run-down zoo and I enjoyed reading what it took to get it going. I found it very informative, even the boring parts about the money and licensing and such.

    It's an incredible story!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Amazing by movieking

    I saw the movie today and loved it.i even cried.then i read the book and felt the same way but if i did have to say which was better i would say the movie because i am movieking and i felt like i was in the action.you might have a different review but this is one is mine.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Love it

    Love the story

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    great book

    Great book, well written and inspiring story. Makes me want to drop everything to pursue my dreams.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Inspiring and fascinating. This is a story that everyone from Business people to Animal Activists can relate to. A must read.

    This book is written in an autobiographical style and so at points can be a little dry or leave the reader wanting more. The author also jumps around a bit, at time making it hard to tell exactly when in the time-line things are taking place. Other than these two criticisms I have nothing but positive things to say about the book. I am so glad Benjamin Mee felt it necessary to share his story with the world. As a businessman I found the technical details of purchasing and running a zoo fascinating. As an animal lover I found the stories of the animals (especially the escapes) completely enthralling. I hope some day I wall be able to visit the zoo and see for myself the fruits of Ben's labors.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    My Review

    This book is the best book ever!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    Sad and heartbreaking

    This story brings a warmhearting sense to all readers. When i read it it made me cry of how this zoo was. It was a sad book and if i was tht person i would try my hardest to bring it back up. This story touched my heart and warmed it. All readers should get a nook and read this wonderful coragous determanation themed book. In others words this book was fantastic.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2012

    Good summer read

    I read this book in a matter of days. I found it to be a good summer read. The subject matter is right up my ally. I enjoyed it and am looking at renting the movie.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Bad

    It's so great at the begining...
    Other than that, its terrible.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2008

    A Unique and Engaging Memoir!

    We Bought a Zoo is a unique and engaging memoir about an ordinary family who happens to buy a broken down zoo. When the opportunity to purchase the Dartmoor Wildlife Park lands in his lap, Benjamin Mee can't resist. He knows it won't be easy but he never suspects the heartbreak and fear he will face along the way. From nursing his young wife who becomes ill with a brain tumor to staring down a loose tiger, over and over he fights for the dream of raising his family in this extraordinary setting.<BR/>I really enjoyed getting to know Benjamin Mee through this book. He comes across as an interesting, humorous guy who is willing to both laugh at himself and stick his neck out for the things he believes in. I really envy him his determination to see the zoo be both financially successful and a contributor to the scientific world. The animal stories are very entertaining and the human stories are heartfelt. My only complaint is I would have enjoyed seeing more of his siblings and his mother in the book as they were clearly very involved as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Movie vwas great, i hope the book is!!

    Great movie so i guess the book would be!




    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    Recommend Reading Book

    Wish I would have read book before seeing movie.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    The movie....

    Th

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Book Better Than Movie

    Saw the movie, and then read the book. The movie was a very different story from the book. I recommend the book though. It was a bit slow in parts but a good family story. Fairly quick read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews

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