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

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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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441789327
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date: 06/01/2011
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 7
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

BENJAMIN MEE, a former newspaper columnist, has spent the last ten years studying animal behavior.

GILDART JACKSON'S acting credits span the stage and screen. He is most often recognized for his roles as Gideon on Charmed and Simon Prentiss on General Hospital. He has also starred in numerous television shows, including CSI and Vegas, and recently played the lead in the highly acclaimed independent feature film You, directed by his wife Melora Hardin.

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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 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 128 reviews.
Jilseponie More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
beecee More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the story
ShowMe703 More than 1 year ago
Great book, well written and inspiring story. Makes me want to drop everything to pursue my dreams.
007lemming More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best book ever!!!!!!!!!!!!
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
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.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's so great at the begining... Other than that, its terrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie first. This book is better than the movie! If you love animals, and people overcoming adversity, then you will love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
sister_t on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an interesting book! I picked up off the library shelf on title alone and it didn't disappoint. It was a fascinating story of what it takes to get a dilapidated zoo running, but it also touched me with the story of the Mee family as well. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down, and by the time I was done - I was ready to take a trip to the zoo!
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining book about a British family who tries to make a thriving business from a run-down zoo they've purchased. I enjoyed the author's "voice" - understated, slight humorous, often self-deprecating. I do wish the book had focused a lot more on the animals in the zoo and a bit less on the finacial and facilities issues, but it was still an interesting read.
LynnSigman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting premise. Kind of meandering at times. Would still like to go see the zoo though.
DonnerLibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this book after seeing the commercials for the movie We Bought A Zoo that came out in December. I never know how books will translate onto the big screen and how many significant changes the movie will make from the book. So often the book is better because a movie has a limited amount of time to tell the entire story and some of the details are usually forced out along the way. Although I still haven't seen the movie yet, I'm not sure this will be the case with We Bought A Zoo.After reading BermudaOnion's review of We Bought A Zoo, I will admit that I was rethinking my strategy and considering going straight to the movie. But since I already had placed the book on hold through my library, I decided I would start it and then if I wasn't enjoying it I had already given myself permission to not finish the story. I completely agree with her assessment that Mee writes what could be a very emotional story in a very clinical way. While I'm sure the business aspects of the transaction were his primary focus and his background in journalism may have prompted a factual recitation, it seems he completely missed the human interest angle on this story.Essentially, Mee moves his family from the idyllic life they have created for themselves in southern France to a completely run-down zoo in the English countryside. While he negotiates the red tape involved with purchasing the zoo, his wife Katherine faces a life-threatening brain tumor. The move also involves their two young children, Mee's brother Duncan, and Mee's mother. It was easy to forget about Katherine, the children, and Mee's mother as they were so seldom mentioned. Katherine and the children seem to have their place in the story before the move to the zoo and then only show up rarely. Mee's mother finally gets a place closer to the end of the story as he talks about how she becomes involved with the business after Katherine's death. These are the people I really wanted to hear about - how did this move affect them?Instead we read about the zoo's dire financial situation, the staff squabbles, and the physical repairs that need to be completed. Mee can't seem to decide if his zoo keepers are competent and willing to work together to bring the zoo back as a viable business or if they resent the changes being implemented and the new staff being brought on board. While I'm sure there were moments of each, Mee seems to paint a drastically different overall picture at various points in the book.I know that the movie changes the location of events from England to southern California and I am very curious to see what other changes they have made. I'm hoping that the movie will focus more on the people living out this story and will have more of an emotional impact than the book. While I won't be rushing out to see the movie right away (for various reasons, not the least of which is how expensive movies have gotten with ticket prices plus the cost of childcare), We Bought A Zoo is definitely on my radar for when it is available on DVD or streaming.
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
We Bought A Zoo is subtitled: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives ForeverGiven that, the story takes a little time to get off the ground. We find the author, a free-lance writer, living in rural southern France with his wife & two children and refinishing two dirt-floor stone barns. When word comes through his sister that a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside is for sale, the author & his extended family takes action to purchase it. This is not an easy endeavor and the business details fill the first quarter of the book. Note also that a BBC film crew got wind of the endeavour and asked to film the process.The thing is, I don¿t think I¿d like Benjamin Mee if I met him in person. He uprooted his family once, by selling their beloved flat in London to move to his personal idyll in France, and then again, back to England because, after all, HE¿D always wanted to own a zoo and now his French dream wasn¿t what he wanted after all. On both occasions, he overrode his wife Katherine. This was especially appalling to me the second time because Katherine was newly diagnosed with a brain tumour & receiving (excellent) treatment in France. The fact that his (possibly) dying wife wasn¿t enthused about this new venture didn¿t faze him a bit.In addition, although Mee has experienced staff and certified professionals advising him, he ignores their advice in serious decisions at least twice that he reports. In both cases, things ended up favorably but, rather than be grateful for twists of fate that may have affected the situations, he boasts and struts.But the story? Animal lovers, once you get past the purchase transaction, there¿s plenty of goodies for you amidst the details of the continuing financial issues, grim living conditions (for the family), and Katherine¿s disease and eventual death. Imagine the day staff moved Tammy the tigert withour proper restraint precaution, only to have the beast gain consciousness as they moved her. Mee describes the situation as being ¿beyond fear, to total calm¿. But the fear lingered when, sometime later, Mee & his brother are startled by a large animal moving behind them while checking some reservoir pipes, & spring to defend their lives ¿ against the neighbor¿s cow. I believe they were less afraid when one of their younger wolves was running loose through the nearest town. And there is an amusing exposé: what happens ¿When Porcupines Go Bad¿.Perhaps the most likable animal in the zoo was Zak, the elderly alpha wolf, who ¿maintained his grip on the pack now, not with brute force, but through sheer charisma and experience.¿ The account of his surgery to save him from testicular cancer will be a source of angst among male readers and of glee to the women.Mee¿s account of the peacock ¿ which he evidently disdains ¿ as a dumb, evolutionary mistake, is humorous. It also amuses me that Mee can describe the wonders of these animals and their behaviours and personalities and make attribution every time to the marvel of evolution, to the point, by his own admission, that it ¿[made] evolution sound (almost) like a religion¿. That these creatures are so intelligently made, with abilities beyond what are needed for survival, and so varied is surely evidence of a designer, a creator. And since, according to Mee, the peacock (named, so he postulates, for the size of its brain), has that marvelous tail that is so ¿evolutionarily expensive¿, it really should be extinct by that theory. The last time I checked on the world¿s peacock population, that wasn¿t the case.I would have loved to see more photographs of the animals Mee brings to life in his stories, but the colour pictures included are disappointing. Nearly half are of their project in France, and the ones of the animals include many that are not named in the book, and exclude many that are. I really did learn a tremendous amount, though, about the run
grigoro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WE BOUGHT A ZOO was a bit slow getting into the story. I expected getting right into the animal anecdotes and the challenges of running a zoo. While Benjamin Mee did not disappoint on that level, it took a good 70 pages describing the financial wranglings with the banks before getting the loans needed to buy the zoo--yawn--. Also, from the dustcover blurb, I knew there was a family tragedy in this memoir, but I was surprised at how matter-of-factly it was described, dismissed and on with the story of getting the zoo opened in time for the summer rush. There are photos in the book, but, oddly, many of them are of animals not mentioned in the story while I wanted to see photos of the specific ones mentioned. the book kept my interest, but I wished it had given me more.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was sold on ¿We Bought a Zoo¿ from the moment I read the title. A huge animal lover, I also enjoy stories about people doing unusual things, so I was fully expecting to be indulged on both fronts. While to my great enjoyment there was plenty of talk about the various wild animals and what it's like to handle them up close, I quickly ran into a couple of major issues that prevented me from enjoying the book as I had expected to. I found Benjamin Mee¿s writing style was confusing and unstructured¿surprising coming from a former journalist. Of course events do occur in a much more random way in real life than they do in fiction, but a certain lack of structure lead to repetitions and asides which would have best been left out. Because of the writing style¿very casual, dry humour, a minimum of sentimentality and retelling of countless anecdotes¿it occurred to me that the way these events were described would have seemed more suited to a blog format. But then again I may be biased as a compulsive blogger myself.Beyond that I took issue with the secondary story line, which wasn¿t mentioned anywhere on the book jacket or in the publisher¿s literature. There was the main story about the purchase and work that needed to be done to the zoo¿after months and years of constant decline, the infrastructure and the animals were in need of a great deal of interventions so that officials would consider Dartmoor Zoological Park fit for public viewing again¿and that was the story I had signed on to read. But then there was also the heartbreaking story of his wife dying of brain cancer which, while being a question of human interest, at the risk of sounding insensitive, came as an unpleasant surprise. I would probably have read the book knowing about these sad events anyway, but I wasn¿t expecting to read about this family tragedy in this context and had the unpleasant feeling that it had been sprung on me. I did keep on reading because I wanted to hear more about the animals and to find out how the story ends with so many odds stacked against Mee. I applaud all the hard work and efforts Benjamin Mee, his staff and family put in, feel I learned a great deal about zoo keeping, and my heart reaches out to Mee and the children for their loss, but I just wish the publisher had made full disclosure up front. This would have made for a much more pleasant reading experience. Granted ¿The Year We Bought a Zoo and My Wife Died¿ probably wouldn't sell as many copies, but some kind of fair warning would have been appreciated by this early reviewer.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Benjamin Mee is a journalist living in Southern France with his wife and 2 children, writing DIY articles for a British magazine. One day his sister calls to say she's found the perfect thing for him, a zoo is for sale in England. Why doesn't the family by it with the money from their recently deceased father. Ben's mum, brother and sister all jump on board and so begins the journey of buying a dilapidated zoo full of animals.At the beginning of the story Ben's wife has recently been given the all clear after struggling with brain cancer but we soon know that she is not going to make it very far into the book when she has a very bad recurrence. When I first was interested in reading this book I had sort of imagined a modern day Gerald Durrell and possibly set expectations too high. The book was readable and at time humorous but really didn't have much substance to it. We're taken through the whole process from trying to find finances, rebuilding to the first few opening months of the running zoo. There were fun antidotes about the animals and the employees but nowhere near as many as I had expected. Instead there were pages of evolutionary musings which were tedious and Ben's frequent use of "DIY" irritated me to no end. Didn't that expression go out with the nineties?Ben comes across as having a bit of an ego and his observations are always from how they affected him, while I would have enjoyed more of an objective view which brought the other zoo keepers to deeper light as characters. While the book's title notes "200 Wild Animals" most of the antidotes were about wolves, tigers, pumas and peacocks, with only a few other animals briefly thrown in for variety. I expected a wider variety of animal discussion and more about their characteristics and habits than about there evolution. Just not what I expected, perhaps others will get more out of it than me.
yggdrasil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first picked this book up in an English airport. I'd made a note to myself to get it once I returned home, only to find out that it wouldn't be published in the US until much later in the year.It's a humerous and engaging memoir but quite a quick read. It describes the acquisition and restoration of a zoo by a British family. The author is a collumnist for the Guardian and that engaging but somewhat shallow writing style dominates the book. Rather than being off-putting, it's actually rather charming. The author's obvious enthusiasm sometimes gets away from him, but that merely adds to the authenticity. Some details (especially personal ones) are a little too glossed over for my liking, but I make an exception for memoirs: in a novel, it would seem unfinished or lazy; in a memoir, it adds to the conversational feel - some things just aren't any of your business. However, the book still feels a little too rushed. Leaving aside personal details, I was looking for more background on the other people. This read more like a longish newspaper article or human interest magazine story than a full book.
kymmayfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this as a Advanced Readers Copy and was very pleased with it. Benjamin Mee and Weinstein Books has a sure fire hit on their hands with this book!Some parts of the book were emotionally tough to get through, however by the time you get to that part you already feel that you are part of the family. You also begin to feel as you are part of the team at the zoo.Benjamin (not to be confused with his father Ben) goes looking for a better place to live with his family and ends up buying a delapitated zoo. In this memoir, you follow his entire family through the trials and triumph of owning this zoo and trying to get it up and running while knowing nothing about running a zoo. He is used to being a journalist but takes this task to hand as if he is a old soul in the zoo business.I felt that I was there with them because of the great flowing writing style of Mee. I wish we would have learned more about the animals as well as the rest of the family in the book but overall it was a great bookI rated it a 4 out of 5. A definate recommendation from me.
Bitter_Grace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though Benjamin Mee had only just moved his family to the South of France when the opportunity came up to purchase a dilapidated zoo back in England, he got his wife, kids, siblings and even his mum on board to make a go of the unusual enterprise. On a financial shoe-string, and with limited experience, the family turned the zoo from an embarrassment into a thriving business and conservation effort -- the Dartmoor Zoological Park. Mee relates the story of his experience with wit and an evident passion for zookeeping (a sharp contrast to his earlier life as a journalist). His humour hits the mark more often than not and after the first chapter the narrative moves along at a brisk and entertaining pace. Mee is at his best when describing the tribulations of caring for the many massive, carnivorous mammals under his care, as well as some very silly peacocks and the like. He recalls with obvious relish time spent making business calls while walking around draped in a boa constrictor named Kevin, and narrow escapes from being speared with porcupine spikes. The revitalization of the zoo coincides with the death of Mee¿s wife Katherine from a brain tumour, the treatment of which Mee tackles with the same determination as rebuilding the zoo, but sadly without the success. Mee recalls his wife with affection but shrugs off sentimentality in describing her decline and even manages to find some sparks of humour in the poignant struggle.The pics of their oh-so-cute kids, among the eight pages of lovely colour photos in the book, made me wish that the story told of the children¿s reaction to, and interaction with, their myriad and exotic new ¿pets,¿ as I¿m sure there must have been a few stories there to tell. Also, at the risk of sounding insensitive, I could have done without the very scatological description of the effects of Katherine¿s medications. Overall, however, this book kept me wanting to read on, and chuckling along, and cheering for Ben, his family, and the park staff. While my negative feelings toward zoos were not entirely dispelled, it was nice to read about someone for whom the well-being of the animals is equally important as, if not more so than, the bottom line of the business. I grew to like the people and animals described in the book and I will keep an eye out for the BBC documentary should it be shown on this side of the pond.With its funny and uplifting story and attractive appearance, I think this book would make a great Christmas gift for many different types of people, particularly for animal lovers who know that the furry members of their family have Personality (as I know mine does).Many thanks to Doubleday/Random House Canada and LibraryThing for this (gorgeous!) review copy.