THE EXCHANGE STUDENT by Kate Gilmore

THE EXCHANGE STUDENT

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Budding zoologist Daria lives in 2094, 70 years after an environmental crash; the near-extinction of many species of animals puts her in the enviable position of helping replenish Earth by raising creatures in a home zoo. Her family is cooperative (if not always agreeable) and financially able to help her feed and house llamas, hornbills, and binturongs. When her mother announces that Fen, an exchange student from the planet Chela, will be staying with them, Daria wonders if the tall grey alien will fit in. Fen, however, loves animals to an extraordinary degree, and Daria gains a companion and a sympathetic helper, who is oddly taciturn on the subject of Chelan fauna. Gilmore (Jason and the Bard, 1993) charts this story carefully, crafting the awkward nuances that give rise to cultural—or in this case, interplanetary—misunderstandings. Fen is a convincing alien; he’s humanoid, but markedly different from Daria, and his propensity for changing color with his emotions leads to an intriguing scene in which he tries to communicate with a chameleon. Underlying the growing friendship and understanding between Earthlings and Chelans is the slowly revealed horror of what has happened on Chela—an environmental disaster as devastating as a nuclear blast. Gilmore shows that Earth might end, not with a bang, but without a bleat, meow, bark, or chirp. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-57511-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999