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Summer of the Monkeys

Summer of the MonkeysSummer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I was reorganizing some bookshelves, this childhood favourite was atop a pile on the library table. It enticed me to re-read it, for the first time since elementary school. This copy, given to me by my aunt Rhonda, is inscribed "Scotty Jones 6." I don't think I was quite that young when I actually read it.

Set in Eastern Oklahoma, not far from the area I grew up in, this is the tell of a young boy, Jay Berry and his dog Rowdy who in the late 19th century experience a great adventure one summer. Some circus monkeys and a chimpanzee have escaped from a circus train and are hiding out in the Illinois River bottoms near their home. Jay Berry sets the goal of capturing them and winning the prize money so that he can finally buy the .22 and pony that every boy desires.

Jay Berry must also contend with his Mama's fears and anxieties about his boyhood adventures and the sometimes annoying presence of his crippled twin sister Daisy. He finds help primarily from Grandpa and support from Papa, who is busy farming all day.

I was intrigued by how much the story reflects on gender stereotypes. I think it does fit a boys idea, especially a 19th century boy's, of how lame girls and mom's can be, but it was a little troubling to me.

There is also a syncretism of Christianity and paganism that reminded me some of Steinbeck's To a God Unknown. Daisy, in particular, is attuned to the animals and the forest and communes with the Old Man of the Mountains. A fairy rings figures prominently in the story. Maybe this is reflect of folk religion?

The adventure is fun. The final chapters of denouement were less so. The final page seemed to be an odd way of wrapping up the story. A bit to sentimental.

I enjoyed reading the book again.

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