For Independent Readers: grades 5 and up
As a Family Read Aloud: ages 9 and up
Book Description: The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee's grandpa had an explanation, of course--as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn't any animal that couldn't be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . .
But by the end of the "summer of the monkeys," Jay Berry Lee had learned a lot more than he ever bargained for--and not just about monkeys. He learned about faith, and wishes coming true, and knowing what it is you really want. He even learned a little about growing up . . .
This novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story--full of rich detail and delightful characters--about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things...
Why Kids Will Like It: Author Wilson Rawls (who also wrote Where the Red Fern Grows) knows how to draw kids into this action-packed story, writing in the first person from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy named Jay Berry, and sneaking some life lessons into the often hilarious narrative. His description of the relationship between Jay Berry and his grandpa is poignant and enviable:
My grandpa was one of those old, slow-moving, boy-loving kind of grandpas. We had been pals for as long as I could remember. He'd do anything for me, and I'd do anything I could for him.
This excerpt had me laughing out loud:
I had always known that my old hound had a beautiful voice, but I had never heard it ring like it did in that silent library. The deep tones rolled out over the floor, slammed against the walls, bounced off the ceiling, and made books quiver on the shelves. Boys and girls all over the place started screaming with laughter.
Like a shot out of a gun, the little lady came from behind the counter and over to Rowdy. She stopped right in front of him. With her hands on her hips, she stood there looking at him. Rowdy thought he had found another friend and was acting like he was very proud of what he had done. He just sat there, mopping the floor with his tail and panting happily.
I all but turned my chair over as I came up out of it. I rushed over and grabbed Rowdy's collar with both hands. I thought the lady would be angry and was going to jump on my dog -- but she wasn't wasn't the least bit made. I could see a twinkle in her eyes and she was smiling.
"Son", she asked, "is this your dog?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said.
"I've been a librarian here for a good many years," she said, "but this is the first time I've ever had a hound dog ask if he could come in my library. I'm honored."
Boys and girls alike will get caught up in this story about Jay Berry, his grandpa, his sister Daisy, and his dog - it's an imaginative tale full of adventure, sibling rivalry and love, family, faith, animals, and even some fairy folklore. I think this quote sums it up quite well:
Grandpa smiled and said, "...You know, an old man like me can teach a young boy like you all the good things in life. But it takes a young boy like you to teach an old man like me to appreciate all the good things in life. I guess that's what life's all about."