Ok, so somewhere back home, on a bookshelf, I have a copy of Wilson Rawls' Summer of the Monkeys… I started it once or twice, but I never read it.
I must have gotten it around 5th or 6th grade; we had read Where the Red Fern Grows in class, and I was desperate to read anything else that Wilson Rawls had written. But when I got home with Summer of the Monkeys, and opened the first few pages, I didn’t connect. It wasn’t the same. It didn’t grab me the way Where the Red Fern Grows had. And I set it aside, picking it up, and putting it aside again, every once in a while.
The odd thing is, that I dreamed about that book often—without ever having read it—dreamed about monkeys in woods and jungles, and possibly even a military instillation—Like I said, I never actually read the book.
But, as often happens, I got in one of my reading moods—I have a need to read something, but it’s a certain kind of craving, but I can’t quite put a name to what I want…I just know that I want something. And so I start pulling things off my bookshelves and putting them back, and just staring at my shelves, and then look through my sister’s books, and then I start going through my Nook library…Finally I found myself browsing the local library’s online catalog. And there it was. Summer of the Monkeys. Something that was familiar, because I had read and reread Where the Red Fern Grows, so many times. And also, something, new, because I had never read this other book of Mr. Rawls’.
I had been anxious, looking for just the right thing. And now I was calm, downloading it, and opening the pages.
Summer of the Monkeys was just as I had hoped, something both new and familiar.
It tells the story of a young boy, Jay Berry Lee, who lives in the Ozarks with his parents, his twin sister Daisy, and a bluetick hound named Rowdy. The only thing that would make Jay Berry any happier would be to have a gun and a pony. And one day when Jay Berry is off exploring in the woods, he comes across a sight he never could have imagined—Trees filled with monkeys—which is where Jay Berry’s adventures begin.
His whole family thinks he’s crazy at first, until they see the monkeys for themselves. And then Jay Berry’s grandpa, explains how a circus had been traveling through, when there was an accident, and the monkeys escaped. And when Jay Berry hears there’s a reward, suddenly it seems as if that pony and that .22 are finally within reach. Besides, he’s sure that he’ll be able to catch monkeys just as easily as he can tree a raccoon. But of course it’s never that easy.
*sigh* This was such a good read!!!—Full of wonder and adventure—I wish I would have read Summer of the Monkeys back when I was in sixth grade!!! But I’m certainly glad I picked it up this summer! It was a story ingrained with nostalgia; a boy growing up, full of family and faith, struggle and overcoming obstacles, heartwrenching and heartwarming decisions, and a few moments of pure magic.
To be honest, it still didn’t quite match my undying love of Where the Red Fern Grows, but it's hard to compete with such a masterpiece. Summer of the Monkeys truly was a treasure, with a Disney-quality of happiness to it (clearly Disney must have agreed, because they made a movie adaptation!), and is definitely headed toward the To Be ReRead pile.—I would especially recommend it for a summer read, or anyone who wants to feel like a kid again!