Saturday, 11 October 2014

*** Rinny Reviews *** Our Zoo by June Mottershead

Disclaimer : I was Provided a free copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Title: Our Zoo
Author: June Mottershead
          Publish Date: October 9th 2014 
           Published by: Headline
Genre: Memoir


Until I brought friends back from school I didn't realise that most people didn't have baby lions in their bedrooms when they were sick, or bring parrots into the house so they wouldn't catch cold.'

Chester Zoo is counted among the top 10 zoos in the world and, with over 11,000 animals and 400 species, it is the most visited wildlife attraction in Britain. Unlike other zoos that owe their existence to philanthropists, explorers or big game hunters, Chester Zoo was the brainchild of one working-class man with a dream he had nurtured since he was a boy: to build a zoo without bars.

June Mottorshead was four years old when her father, George, moved his family to Upton, two miles out Chester, to begin the process of turning his dream into a reality. With no other children around to play with - her sister Muriel was 10 years older - June's friends became the animals. Her closest companion was an orphaned chimpanzee which her sister hadshe hand reared, and for six years the two were inseparable. June soon became the poster girl for Chester Zoo and photographs of her cuddling lion clubs, head-butting a goat or opening the beak of a pelican soon graced the front pages of British newspapers. She was 13 when war was declared on 1939 and, with the backbone of the staff headed for the front, it fell to June to take over as head keeper. Keeping the zoo running while the war waged was no easy task. Despite rationing the animals had to be fed and all of them - penguins, elephants, leopards, tigers, lions, kangaroos and polar bears - needed to be moved into secure locked quarters inside as soon as the air raid siren sounded.

June, now in her eighties, is the guardian of her family's legacy and here in Our Zoo, she tells


About 6 years ago I moved to England from Scotland to live with the man I love and went on to marry a year later. I left all my family and friends and most of my belongings behind and one of my favourite memories of that time was our first family trip out ( me, my husband, his daughter and my mother in law), we went to Chester Zoo. I loved it I fell in love with the place right there and then. I have always had a love for animals some might call it an obsession lol. I always wanted dreamed of working in a zoo. Unfortunately on going health issues hasn't allowed this. Below is some photos I took that day.

Recently you might have heard or watched Our Zoo on the BBC, a drama program about the life of the Mottershead family and how Chester Zoo began. It is a wonderful series and I hope we get a season two and many more to follow the story. That being said of course as it is a television show although based on the true events that happened, it is also dramatized and has changes for obvious reasons.

A few days ago I was browsing Netgalley and couldn't believe when I saw that this book was being released. I knew I had to request it. I could not pass up the opportunity of finding out more about what actually happened and getting to know the family and animals a little more. I was not disappointed.

This book has a magical feel to it not only do we hear a first person account of the different troubles that the family and the zoo faced, we find out all about the animals that were on the journey along side them. We get to know June, her family and friends (human and animal). It did not feel like i was reading a book but sitting snuggled up listening to a grandparent telling me stories from their childhood. A wonderful feeling that I can honestly say a book has never ever gave me before.

This book takes you through all the emotions, I laughed and I cried. It was a heart warming and heartbreaking roller-coaster. We follow the story of the early days of the zoo highs and lows through June's retelling. From Mary the chimp to Pelly the pelican. From opening the zoo's gate to surviving the rationing during the war. It is truly a remarkable story. What a life June has lead, what she has seen and done is amazing.  Most people dream to work with animals in a zoo or go see them, but to live in a zoo it is so unbelievably wonderful and beyond what anyone could think it would be like. As well as a lot of sacrifice and hard work.

I also thought that the book was beautiful not only its cover but cute illustrations above each new chapter of different animals. At the beginning is a map showing the zoo grounds and dates each new exhibit etc was added.You also get to know not only about the animals and their different personalities. We get to learn little facts about the species and different animals which as a animal lover I adored.

The only things I did not like were only small details and in no way had a negative impact on my enjoyment of the book. At times i felt we were jumping back and forth in time within a paragraph or two. This made the book feel a little disjointed at times. Perhaps it was just me though because like I said it did not have a negative impact on me.The only other thing was it seemed to end so abruptly which perhaps because I would like to read more and more never ending tales of the zoo felt disappointing.

I have only ever read one memoir/auto biography before. I was in my teens and if  I am honest not much of it stayed with me. However this book has touched me in many ways and will stay with me for a very long time. I would love to read more stories about the family and Chester Zoo. I would recommend this book to any one who has ever visited Chester Zoo or has a love for animals great and small. I am already planning on buying a few copies of this book as part of Christmas presents for family and a copy for myself. Hands down my favourite read of this year so far.

My Rating : 

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