A Summer full of monkeys, thrills and dangers

9780440981756A tree full of monkeys the last thing fourteen-year-old Jay Berry Lee thought he’d find on one of his treks through Oklahoma’s Cherokee Ozarks. Jay learns from his grandfather that the monkeys have escaped from a circus and there is a big reward for anyone who finds them. He knows how much his family needs the money. Jay is determined to catch the monkeys. It’s a summer of thrills and dangers no one will ever forget.

Wilson Rawls (author of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS) has done it again. Summer of the Monkeys is a delightful tale of a poor family from rural Oklahoma in the early 1900’s. Fourteen-year-old Jay Berry Lee lives through incredible events and a rollercoaster of emotions as he comes of age, during one unforgettable summer near the river bottoms in former Cherokee territory. What, another kid-and-his-dog story? Fortunately, this one is much more.  You chuckle and groan with frustration, as Jay and his smart-as-a-coot Grandpa wrack their brains to catch some 30 monkeys which have escaped the circus after a train wreck. Lured on by the generous reward offer, Jay becomes obsessed with trapping the little fellows–in order to achieve a country boy’s dream of his own pony and .22 gun. But those simian rascals prove too human-savvy to be caught; time and again they outsmart the best laid plans–all because they are protected by a fiendishly clever chimpanzee.

Summer of the Monkeys takes place in the 1800s in Oklahoma near the Ozark Mountains. Jay Berry has his eye on a pony and a rifle and he hopes that he can capture Jimbo, the head circus monkey. Jimbo has a price tag on his head of $100. The rest of the monkeys will fetch $2 apiece. Jay attempts to catch the monkeys with traps and nets borrowed from his grandpa to no avail. A storm rolls through and the monkeys nearly die. Jay Berry befriends Jimbo and leads the monkeys to safety and the reward money. Jay then gives the money to his family for the surgery for his ‘little’ sister.  When his sister returns she brings him a gift of a rifle and Jay’s grandfather buys him a pony.

An amazon reviews said:

Jay Berry Lee is happy until the summer he is 14 years old and discovers monkeys living in the creek bottoms near his parents’ homestead. Set in the late 1800s, Summer of the Monkeystraces the boy’s adventures as he attempts to capture 29 monkeys that have (it turns out) escaped from the circus. With somewhat dubious help from his grandfather, and over the objections of his mother, Jay goes about discovering that monkeys are much smarter and harder to catch than he thought possible. Woven into this story is a second theme about his physically disabled sister and the family’s attempts to find money for an operation. As funny and touching as Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows, this book will appeal to the young reader who has always wished for the freedom to run wild through the woods with nothing more pressing to do than find another rabbit hole–or escaped monkey. (Ages 12 and older).

One of my students who read it said that the book is a great realistic contemporary novel.  The figurative language used in this novel is outstanding. The antics these monkeys pull on poor Jay Berry Lee create many truly comical scenes. Summer of the Monkeys is ideal for middles schoolers. Themes of friendship, problem solving, sacrifice, and persistence run through the work.

Summer of the Monkeys is a fun book that touches on many good themes in very colorful ways. There is a part when the monkeys get intoxicated and end up getting Jay Berry intoxicated as well so a discussion about the use of alcohol might have to be used before reading this book depending on the age of the audience.

The book is great for discussing characterization through the intelligence of Jimbo. Setting place a big role in this novel without the storm that passes through Jay might not have ever been able to befriend the chimpanzee Jimbo and the rest of the monkeys. The themes of friendship, the relationship between Jay and his grandfather, and the sacrifice that Jay provides for his family are all worth wile themes to delve deeper into.

Wilson Rawls has written the a superb young adult novel. The characters are so deep in this book; you can tell exactly what Jay is feeling and thinking, and you really get to love him. The story is very original and extremely well written.  It is funny and loveable, but not shallow at all … a real heartwarming story.The mixture of humor, love, family relationships, adventure and magic make for engrossing reading. There is never a dull moment in this wonderful book..

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