I remember reading two books by Wilson Rawls in elementary school. One, of course, was Where the Red Fern Grows, which I vividly remember bawling over at the end. The second, Summer of Monkeys, has a much happier ending (and monkeys!) so I was happy to find it recently at a rummage sale and revisit the story, which I last read at least 20 years ago.
“Papa,” I asked, “how can you help a wish?”
“Oh, there are a lot of ways,” Papa said. “Hard work, faith, patience, and determination. I think prayer and really believing in your wish can help more than anything else.”
Summer of the Monkeys, set in the Ozarks in the 1950s, stars 14 year old Jay Berry Lee. I feel like you can probably extrapolate everything you need to know about the character from his name alone. Exploring the mountains around his parents’ small farm one day, Jay Berry runs across a tree full of monkeys. He tells his grandfather — a shopkeeper in town — about his discovery. Grandpa tells Jay Berry that the monkeys escaped from a circus, and there’s a good-sized reward for their capture. Unfortunately, he quickly learns how fucking smart monkeys can be, and tries method after method to catch them — most of which end in disaster.
It’s a cute story, and I really loved the relationship between Jay Berry and his grandfather, who supports his mission without taking over. Jay Berry and his sister Daisy, who has a birth defect that makes her limp, have some sweet siblings moments, too. It’s definitely aimed at a younger audience, but I enjoyed rereading it and hope to share it with my kids one day, too.