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City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
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City of the Beasts (2002)

by Isabel Allende

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Journeys of Jaguar and Eagle (1)

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2,587563,361 (3.45)85
Recently added byrena75, paultic, private library, Spoto-Media, Mrs.Kleid

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English (37)  Spanish (8)  German (3)  Dutch (3)  Bulgarian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Japanese (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Alexander Cold, a fifteen-year-old California boy, is sent to stay with his grandmother in New York while his mother is being treated for cancer. After arriving at the airport to find no one waiting for him, he wanders through an alternate-dimension New York where no one will give directions to a polite out-of-towner, has all his belongings except his passport stolen by a girl around whom, had the plot not demanded it, he'd never have dropped his guard for a second, and eventually winds up at the door of his grandmother's apartment. Grandma Kate is a reporter for International Geographic, so of course she promptly takes Alex off on an expedition to Brazil, to track a yeti-like creature reported to inhabit remote portions of the Amazonian jungle. (This expedition is, of course, the reason his passport couldn't be stolen.) The Amazonian version is known simply as the Beast, and the North American version, i.e., sasquatch, or "Bigfoot," has apparently never been heard of, or at least is never mentioned. The Beast is also rumored to have a city, hence the title of the book.

Besides Kate and Alex, the expedition consists of two International Geographic photographers, a pilot, Cesar Santos, who's an experienced guidefor jungle expeditions, the pilot's twelve-year-old daughter Nadia, the anthropologist Ludovic Leblanc, Doctor Omayra Torres, and assorted other hangers-on and spear-carriers. After enough initial obstacles have been overcome, the expedition sets out up the Amazon, encountering wild beasts and wild Indians along the way, until the two children become separat ed and have an amazing adventure, learning what the adults are not worthy to know.

As you may be gathering by this point, I found this book irritating rather than enjoyable. Some of the problems, the ones involving speaking styles and word choice, may well be problems of translation. For instance, in the sentence "Wheeling in the air were birds he had never seen before, some as translucid and filmy as jellyfish, others as solid as black condors" on pages 260-261, the use of translucid rather than translucent is probably not Ms. Allende's doing. (The idea of birds being either translucid or translucent is another matter, but leave that aside for the moment.) Likewise, when Ms. Allende wrote the Spanish original of "My parents do not tolerate guns. If they saw me with this they would faint" (page 130) or '"And to think that I have deprived myself of this delicious treat for more than fifteen years!" he exclaimed at the second mouthful' (page 240, where Alex finally breaks down and tries eating fish) she may well have had Alex sounding like a normal fifteen-year-old boy.

Other things are harder to blame on the translator. Ludovic Leblanc is a cartoon western racist, believing and actively promoting all sorts of claptrap about the bestial nature of the Indians a nd the essential brutality of human nature, even when he has to create the evidence himself. He's completely incompetent, impractical, and quite impervious to facts, reason, or experience until the end of the story, when a single experience changes all his opinions and transforms him, temporarily, into a clear-thinking plotter with nerves of steel. Much is made of the fact that Alex is an extraordinarily picky eater; in fact he allegedly doesn't eat for several weeks of the expedition, because nothing's on offer that's on his short list of acceptable foods. We are repeatedly reminded that Alex is not eating. Why doesn't he collapse from hunger?

Then there's the Magic Indian. Now, some of the Indians are magical because it's an integral part of the story. Matuwe, on the other hand, is just magical once, when the plot needs him to be: "His sense of orientation was so extraordinary that, although he had never flown, he was able to locate their position in that vast green expanse of jungle and to indicate with precision the place where the International Geographic party was waiting." (page 333, when Matuwe returns by helicopter with a rescue party.)

More generally, except for Kate, Alex, and Nadia, all the significant white expedition members are either villains or dupes--and even Kate is a bit of a dupe. All the Indians are good guys. Indian culture is pure, connected to nature, and good, while white culture is unnatural, fake, bad. It gets tiresome very fast.

Besides the failures of logic and characterization, Ms. Allende is also guilty of a simple failure to check easily checked facts. On page 139, we learn this important fact about anacondas: "They didn't dare probe around too much, because those reptiles were known to travel in pairs, and no one was inclined to chance another confrontation." This seemed odd to me, and I did a little checking. Amongst the several sources I found that told me the anaconda is ordinarily solitary are http://nashvillezoo.org/anaconda.htm and http://www.extremescience.com/biggestsnake.htm And concerning the Beasts, on page 389: "...they're very ancient animals, maybe from the Stone Age, or earlier." Now, maybe Ms. Allende doesn't have web access, but I bet she has access to at least one good library. I bet a reference librarian could help her find out something about the habits of anacondas, or whether the Stone Age counts as "ancient" on the scale of biological evolution.

All in all, a disappointing and irritating book. Don't waste your own time, and don't give this to the younger readers it's intended for, who ought to be discovering what's fun about reading.
( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
novel for young readers — picked up By mistake — love the author's work + was in large print!

Fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold is about to join his fearless grandmother on the trip of a lifetime. An International Geographic expedition is headed to the dangerous, remote wilds of South America, on a mission to document the legendary Yeti of the Amazon known as the Beast.
  christinejoseph | Jul 24, 2016 |
När 15-årige Alexanders mamma blir svårt sjuk, skickas han till sin farmor Kate. Men Kate är inte som andra farmödrar snart har hon tagit med sig Alexander på en expedition i Amazonas djungler. Expeditionen leds av en synnerligen excentrisk forskare på jakt efter urtidsdjur som sägs leva kvar i dessa mytomspunna trakter. Med finns också den indianske vägvisaren Santos och hans dotter Nadia, som blir Alexanders vän. Expeditionen blir snart långt mer äventyrlig än vad deltagarna tänkt sig: i denna urskog där så många fått sätta livet till lurar många faror Isabel Allende har med sin magiska berättarkonst och romaner som Andarnas hud och Ödets dotter erövrat en väldig läsekrets över hela världen
  svkkarlskrona | Feb 3, 2016 |
Fifteen Year Old Alexander Cold is going to stay with his Grandmother Kate. Alexander's mom has cancer and is going in for treatments. Kate is a journalist for International Geographic and takes Alexander to the Amazon while she does a story. The mission is to document the legendar yeti of the Amazon known as the beast. I really enjoyed this story. My son had checked this out of the library and instead of him reading it I did. I thought the story was told extremely well. My favorite parts were of Alexander and the local guide's daughter, Nadia. I have the sequel already to start reading next. ( )
  i.should.b.reading | Jan 15, 2016 |
City Of The Beasts, by Isabel Allende
★★★★

Synopsis: (From the book flap) Fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold has the chance to take the trip of a lifetime. Parting from his family and ill mother, Alexander joins his fearless grandmother, a magazine reporter for International Geographic, on an expedition to the dangerous, remote world of the Amazon. Their mission, along with others on their team—including a celebrated anthropologist, a local guide and his young daughter Nadia, and a doctor—is to document the legendary Yeti of the Amazon known as the Beast.
Under the dense canopy of the jungle, Alexander is amazed to discover much more than he could have imagined about the hidden worlds of the rain forest. Drawing on the strength of the jaguar, the totemic animal Alexander finds within himself, and the eagle, Nadia’s spirit guide, both young people are led by the invisible People of the Mist on a thrilling and unforgettable journey to the ultimate discovery….
In a stunning novel of high adventure, internationally celebrated novelist Isabel Allende leads readers through the intricacies of two personal quests, and on an epic voyage—teeming with magical realism—into the wonder-filled heart of the Amazon
In A Sentence: A very entertaining, thought-provoking children’s novel that you should absolutely read with your kids.
My Thoughts: This one took me about 5 hours collectively to finish. I say collectively because I kept dozing off while reading. I’m not sure if it was because of the writing, or if it was because of the sleep deprivation I’ve been experiencing, but I do confess to falling asleep while reading this book.
That being said, it was still a great book. The premise is an excellent, epic adventure, with a bit of magical realism added in to make it more exciting for the target audience. The characters were fun too. I loved Professor LeBlanc. He was the ultimate joke of an anthropologist, the perfect example of what you shouldn’t do when you’re studying new peoples.
Allende must have done some type of college-level anthropology research before writing this book, because a lot of the things she says, about encountering isolated tribes and how different people perceive each other, strongly remind me of what my professors kept telling me during my cultural anthropology classes: people with a different way of life perceive us the same way we perceive them. Our habits are frequently considered as bizarre, and sometimes as unnatural and dangerous, which is what we also think of their habits. The point is that we shouldn’t judge and condemn a culture because they are different from us; we should instead take the time to learn from them and try to understand them. Preserving an existing people takes a greater priority than trying to change/improve their way of life, because even the best intentions can ultimately destroy an entire culture. I was really impressed that Allende was able put that in a way that even children could understand, and it’s the main reason why I rated this book so highly.
I did have some minor problems with book, however. The writing style seemed a little flat and dry in its simplicity. It might be because of the translation, but nevertheless, it did detract from my full enjoyment of the story. The plot made up for it, however, so I can’t complain too much.
I would definitely recommend this book to kids ages 12-15, since this book has an excellent moral behind it, about being open-minded and feminist. I would also say that the parents should read it too, since they’ll probably enjoy just as much.
( )
  Spirolim | Jan 13, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Allende, Isabelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Degenaar, RikkieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liverani, ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peden, Margaret SayersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
[None]
Dedication
To Alejandro, Andrea, and Nicole,
who asked me for this story
First words
Alexander Cold awakened at dawn, startled by a nightmare.
Quotations
Our family is going through a real crisis. In the Chinese language, do you know what the characters for 'crisis' are? 'Danger" plus 'opportunity.' Maybe your mother's illness will offer you an extraordinary opportunity.
...he wasn't certain about the propriety of Christianizing the Indians, who had their own form of spirituality.  They had lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years, like Adam and Eve in Paradise.  Why, Padre Valdomero wondered, was it necessary to teach them the concept of sin?
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Book description
The book is for young teens and the style of writing reflects this. The story is about a boy whose family life is disrupted when his mother becomes ill, and he is sent to live with his Aunt. His aunt is a no nonsense lady who is about to embark on a trip to the Amazon to keep an eye on govt. relations with the local indians. Behind the scenes the indians are in danger of greedy developers who want them out of the way. This is a real coming of age adventure for this boy, who grows up a lot. He starts as a bit of a spoiled brat but turns out to be a leader. This is a mystical book, full of magic.
It was OK, but I wouldn't rave about it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060535032, Paperback)

Fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold is about to join his fearless grandmother on the trip of a lifetime. An International Geographic expedition is headed to the dangerous, remote wilds of South America, on a mission to document the legendary Yeti of the Amazon known as the Beast.

But there are many secrets hidden in the unexplored wilderness, as Alex and his new friend Nadia soon discover. Drawing on the strength of their spirit guides, both young people are led on a thrilling and unforgettable journey to the ultimate discovery. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

When fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold accompanies his individualistic grandmother on an expedition to find a humanoid Beast in the Amazon, he experiences ancient wonders and a supernatural world as he tries to avert disaster for the Indians.

» see all 9 descriptions

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