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
Narrated by: Gildart Jackson
Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins
4 out of 5 stars (507 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Already a BBC documentary miniseries and excerpted in the Guardian, We Bought a Zoo is a profoundly moving portrait of an unforgettable family living in the most extraordinary circumstances. This touching memoir is set to be a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon, in theaters December 23, 2011.

When Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home—a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside where over two hundred exotic animals would be their new neighbors—his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. But Mee’s dream was to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. So in 2006, Mee, his wife and 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 devised a long-term escape plan and implemented it.

The grand reopening was scheduled for spring, but there was much work to be done and none of it easy for these novice zookeepers. Tigers broke loose, money was tight, the staff grew skeptical, and family tensions reached a boiling point.

Then tragedy struck. Katherine Mee, Benjamin’s wife, had a recurrence of a brain tumor, forcing Benjamin and his two young children to face the heartbreak of illness and the devastating loss of a wife and mother. Inspired by the memory of Katherine and the healing power of the incredible family of animals they had grown to love, Benjamin and his kids resolved to move forward. Today the zoo is a thriving success.

©2008 Benjamin Mee (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Charming throughout, and touching as well.” ( New York Daily News)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    212
  • 4 Stars
    160
  • 3 Stars
    105
  • 2 Stars
    18
  • 1 Stars
    12

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    204
  • 4 Stars
    158
  • 3 Stars
    68
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    6

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    208
  • 4 Stars
    132
  • 3 Stars
    92
  • 2 Stars
    13
  • 1 Stars
    7

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fabulous narrator.

He took an interesting story and made it irresistible. A lot went on in the re-opening of this zoo, and it could have been very dry reading. The author did a good job of interspersing the details with bits of humor, drama, and, yes, sadness, while the narrator did a fabulous job bringing the story to life. I wouldn't mind listening to it again, and I hope the author does a sequel, because I'd love to hear more about the zoo now that it has been open for a few years and the changes that have been made. I'll definitely be looking for other books the narrator has done the reading for, too.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not "G" rated

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Recommended for an adult audience. Although I read the reviews before I downloaded this story for a family road trip, nothing lead me to expect the string of F-bombs and other curse words in the latter half of the story. We had to have a long conversation with our young sons about curse words the day we listened to that part of the story; I considered turning it off, but we elected to finish the story. We did feel that the treatment of the author's wife's illness was well done and explores grief openly.

Did Gildart Jackson do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

yes

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Apparently it is a movie, and as per usual Hollywood treatment, the movie is very different from the book.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Story was intriguing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The ending.

Would you be willing to try another book from Benjamin Mee? Why or why not?

It would depend on the story involved.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Gildart Jackson?

Maybe.

Could you see We Bought a Zoo being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Well since it was, yes.

Any additional comments?

Because I had seen the movie first, I had an expectation that was probably unrealistic. While I appreciated the truthfulness that was told, it was not as entertaining as the movie made it seem. The end of the book became hard to deal with for me as the language became objectionable. I would still not mind visiting this little zoo, however, if I was ever in that country.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

engageing but.....

Cute story, I would have prefered more about the relationships and less banking,
financial and legal data. The animal stories were great and the people were inspirational.
Quite an impressive undertaking. Interesting reading.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic, funny and extremely well written

Loved this book! A very enjoyable listen. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but it did not adequately portray the absolutely insurmountable challenges and amazingly colorful characters that made up the actual story. I found myself laughing so hard I was crying through parts of it. I highly recommend it.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great story but horrible narrator

I have never written a review before but felt compelled to now. I have been listening to Audible books and books on tape for over 12 years and this is the worst narration I can remember. I think this is a great story, but Jackson's reading falls short. I felt it was stilted with no emotions. I even checked to see if the author was the reader. I would love to hear the story read by someone else.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Boring

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Written as if a project plan. Dry and boring. I am an animal lover, and the concept was appealing, given the additional attractiveness of settings in France and England. I gave up about half way through. Perhaps others who enjoy those same things will persevere. I could not.

Has We Bought a Zoo turned you off from other books in this genre?

Actually, yes! I was steadily listening to books, one after the other. This one was not completed, and it has been several months before my return.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Weariness! I tried hard to get through it, but the story was written as a documentary, a project plan --- "next we did this". Not at all compelling.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good True Story

What did you like best about We Bought a Zoo? What did you like least?

I didn't know it was a true story. That was pleasing. It was well written and flowed nicely. It was interesting. I have not seen the movie so can't compare, but I don't think the movie had the sadness of his wife's sickness. Not sure, though. I listen to several books per week driving and doing chores. I enjoy a good reader. I feel they make the story. I did not like the reader of this book. I found the voice flat and unimaginative. He did not do female voices well. I never forgot that a male was reading the book. I actually thought it was read by the author (seldom a good idea-most should stick to writing and leave to reading to the pros), until I looked to see. I would probably listen again.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The wife. I liked her positive attitude and tenacity. And the mother. She was interesting. I would have liked to hear more about her. She was very generous and trusting with her life's savings.

What aspect of Gildart Jackson???s performance would you have changed?

I would have found someone else. I did not like his performance at all.

Do you think We Bought a Zoo needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

If someone else was the reader, I would listen to a follow up. Otherwise-no. I would like to hear more about the family.

Any additional comments?

Get a new reader.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Nothing like the movie... except the zoo

I super enjoyed the movie and books are usually better, right? Not this time. I just couldn't find the magic. Perhaps if you watched the BBC series "Ben's Zoo," and wanted to know the in depth details behind the scenes... this would be perfect. It feels like it was written in a series of chapters independent of each other, for you jump around... several times I checked to see if I had accidently fast forwarded. I was left with gaps I wondered about and information he repeated multiple times. Ben writes columns and articles and it feels like he used the same practices in writing the book, piecemeal rather than tackling the whole thing together. Its not a bad book, I enjoyed his humor and it was a change of pace, just isn't as brilliant as the stars and movie would lead you to believe. G rated book but kids would get bored with the financial and family details.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Would Have Made An Interesting Magazine Article

The story seemed interesting enough, and I did not necessarily except the book to resemble the movie (which it doesn't), but after about three hours I was ready to put it down. I did listen to the end, but it was a grind. I listen to most of my audiobook books while doing my daily gym workouts, so I stayed with it with the same determination I use in doing 40 minutes of hard cardio. This would have made an interesting magazine article, but in the end, it was just too much detail, too much of the author's internal monologue, and too much about his wife's illness and death.

I understand that his wife's untimely death from cancer was unfortunately intertwined with the purchase of the zoo, but I felt they just seemed to be two different stories. Some people might enjoy his frank and open discussion of her illness, the effect of it on their family, and his emotions during her illness and after her death. For me, to listen to all of that in connection with his family's decision to buy a zoo seemed terribly self-indulgent -- just not my thing perhaps.

I was also caught off guard by his salty language, and I would rate the overall narration was adequate. I also found his condescending comments about several of his staff members to be quite off-putting. A couple of staffers decided to leave when the business hit a rough patch during the first year, fearing they might end up jobless. He considered this a lack of loyalty. I have to wonder how long he would have continued to pay their salaries if the rough patch had continued. I realize this was a labor of love and a chosen way of life for him, but it was a job to them. By then I had been listening to this book for too long anyway. For me, it was worth neither the time nor the money.