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Luc is an orphan who is desperate to escape the abuse and despair of a children's home in Gabon. Stealing from a naive, white professor seems like the ideal way out. When his plan fails, Luc is quickly apprehended. Instead of harsh punishment he is shocked to be offered a job with the scientist. Fearful of the dangerous chimpanzee "mock men" Luc bravely follows the professor deep into the rain forest where he discovers unparalleled beauty. As he begins to unravel the mysteries of the intelligent and peaceful apes Luc is thrust into a battle against evil forces that threaten the place he now calls home. This epic adventure highlights the plight of the great primates while providing considerable insight into the lives of AIDS orphans who struggle to survive in an adult world of power and greed.
This novel can be used to link science and social studies outcomes related to global issues surrounding ecosystem sustainability and natural resources. The value of the Congo Basin rain forest could be explored in the context of human and wildlife benefits as opposed to the wealth derived from mining, oil extraction and logging. Students could also research and promote options such as fair trade products that use natural resources in a responsible manner.
The book also supports science outcomes that examine ethical issues such as illegal wildlife trade and the use of animals in biomedical research. Students might analyze how these types of activities are primarily driven by economics and develop projects such as social media campaigns that raise awareness among youth about the devastating impacts of poaching.
As an AIDS orphan Luc endures horrific living conditions. Thus, his story could be used as an introduction to the social implications of the AIDS epidemic. Students could learn about the types of efforts that have successfully assisted African orphans in comparison to programs which have been less helpful. This analysis could lead to a school action project that raises funds for proven assistance programs like education.
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