Farm life in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains is never easy, but fourteen year old Jay Berry Lee has many reasons to be happy. He loves helping his father on the farm, wandering along the river bottoms with his dog Rowdy and visiting his grandfather at his general store. He does not even mind the teasing of his twin sister Daisy. Indeed, life seems actually quite peaceful for the Lee family, in spite of Daisy’s crippled leg. Peaceful, that is, until 30 monkeys escape from a traveling circus into the forest surrounding the Lee’s farm.
Although Mrs. Lee would like her son to leave well enough alone, Jay Berry is determined to find those monkeys and earn the reward for returning them. Then he’ll have enough money to buy a pony and a rifle. With his grandfather’s help and the assistance of Rowdy, Jay Berry concocts a series of schemes to outwit the animals. Unfortunately, those monkeys are more clever than expected.
Readers will not be able to keep from laughing aloud as this group of circus animals gets the best of Jay and Rowdy at every turn. They will also admire Jay Berry’s tenacity, Rowdy’s loyalty and Daisy’s cheerfulness in the face of suffering. The Lee family is a warm, close-knit unit that encompasses three generations. Jay’s relationship with his grandfather is particularly noteworthy. Grandpa has his own motives for encouraging Jay’s attempts to win that reward. With that special patience and wisdom that only grandfathers seem to have, he manages to help Jay sacrifice his own dreams for the good of another.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.