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  • Written by Wilson Rawls
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On Sale: December 29, 2010
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-78155-0
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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Monkeys Out In The Middle Of Nowhere Staring At Him!

A 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.


Chapter One

Up until I was fourteen years old, no boy on earth could have been happier. I didn't have a worry in the world. In fact, I was beginning to think that it wasn't going to be hard at all for me to grow up. But just when things were really looking good for me, something happened. I got mixed up with a bunch of monkeys and all of my happiness flew right out the window. Those monkeys all but drove me out of my mind.

If I had kept this monkey trouble to myself, I don't think it would have amounted to much; but I got my grandpa mixed up in it. I felt pretty bad about that because Grandpa was my pal, and all he was trying to do was help me.

I even coaxed Rowdy, my old bluetick hound, into helping me with this monkey trouble. He came out of the mess worse than Grandpa and I did. Rowdy got so disgusted with me, monkeys, and everything in general, he wouldn't even come out from under the house when I called him.

It was in the late 1800s, the best I can remember. Anyhow -- at the time, we were living in a brand-new country that had just been opened up for settlement. The farm we lived on was called Cherokee land because it was smack dab in the middle of the Cherokee Nation. It lay in a strip from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains to the banks of the Illinois River in northeastern Oklahoma. This was the last place in the world that anyone would expect to find a bunch of monkeys.

I wasn't much bigger than a young possum when Mama and Papa settled on the land; but after I grew up a little, Papa told me all about it. How he and Mama hadn't been married very long, and were sharecropping in Missouri. They were unhappy, too; because in those days, being a sharecropper was just about as bad as being a hog thief. Everybody looked down on you.

Mama and Papa were young and proud, and to have people look down on them was
almost more than they could stand. They stayed to themselves, kept on sharecropping,
and saving every dollar they could; hoping that someday they could buy a farm of their

Just when things were looking pretty good for Marna and Papa, something happened.
Mama hauled off and had twins -- my little sister Daisy and me.

Papa said that I was born first, and he never saw a healthier boy. I was as pink as a sunburnt huckleberry, and as lively as a young squirrel in a corncrib. It was different with Daisy though. Somewhere along the line something went wrong and she was born
with her right leg all twisted up.

The doctor said there wasn't much wrong with Daisy's old leg. It had something to do with the muscles, leaders, and things like that, being all tangled up. He said there were doctors in Oklahoma City that could take a crippled leg and straighten it out as straight as a ramrod. This would cost quite a bit of money though; and money was the one thing that Mama and Papa didn't have.

Mama cried a lot in those days, and she prayed a lot, too; but nothing seemed to do any good. It was bad enough to be stuck there on that sharecropper's farm; but to have a little daughter and a twisted leg, and not be able to do anything for her, hurt worst of all.

Then one day, right out of a clear blue sky, Mama got a letter from Grandpa. She read it and her face turned as white as the bark on a sycamore tree. She sat right down on the dirt floor of our sod house and started laughing and crying all at the same time. Papa said that after he had read the letter, it was all he could do to keep from bawling a little, too.

Grandpa and Grandma were living down in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. They owned one of those big old country stores that had everything in it. Grandpa wasn't only a storekeeper; he was a trader, too, and a good one. Papa always said that Grandpa was the only honest trader he ever knew that could trade a terrapin out of its shell.

In his letter, Grandpa told Mama and Papa that he had done some trading with a Cherokee Indian for sixty acres of virgin land, and that it was theirs if they wanted it. All they had to do was come down and make a farm out of it. They could pay him for it any way they wanted to.

Well, the way Mama was carrying on, there wasn't but one thing Papa could do. The next morning, before the roosters started crowing, he took what money they had saved and headed for town. He bought a team of big red Missouri mules and a covered wagon. Then he bought a turning plow, some seed corn, and a milk cow. This took about all the money he had.

It was way in the night when Papa got back home. Mama hadn't even gone to bed. She had everything they owned packed, and was ready to go. They were both so eager to get away from that sharecropping farm that they started loading the wagon by moonlight.

The last thing Papa did was to make a two-baby cradle. He took Mama's old washtub and tied a short piece of rope to each handle. To give the cradle a little bit of bounce, he tied the ropes to two cultivator springs and hung the whole contraption to the bows inside the covered wagon.

Mama thought that old washtub was the best baby cradle she had ever seen. She filled it about half full of corn shucks and quilts, and then put Daisy and me down in it.

After taking one last look at the sod house, Papa cracked the whip and they left Missouri for the Oklahoma Territory.
Wilson Rawls

About Wilson Rawls

Wilson Rawls - Summer of the Monkeys
Wilson Rawls grew up on a small farm in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. There were no schools where he lived so his mother taught Rawls and his sisters how to read and write. He says that reading the book The Call of the Wild changed his life and gave him the notion that he would like to grow up to write a book like it. He shared his dream with his father, and his father gave him the encouraging advice, "Son, a man can do anything he sets out to do, if he doesn't give up." Rawls never forgot his father's words, and went on to create two novels about his boyhood that have become modern classics.


WINNER 1981 California Young Reader Medal
NOMINEE 1985 Colorado Children's Book Award
WINNER 1980 Minnesota Maud Heart Lovelace Award
WINNER 1979 Kansas William White Award
WINNER 1982 California Young Reader Medal
NOMINEE 1985 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
WINNER 1979 Oklahoma Sequoyah Children's Book Award
WINNER 1979 Wisconsin Golden Archer Book Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee's grandpa had an explanation, of course--as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn't any animal that couldn't be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . .

But by the end of the "summer of the monkeys," Jay Berry Lee had learned a lot more than he ever bargained for--and not just about monkeys. He learned about faith, and wishes coming true, and knowing what it is you really want. He even learned a little about growing up . . .

This novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story--full of rich detail and delightful characters--about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things...


Wilson Rawls grew up on a small farm in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. There were no schools where he lived so his mother taught Rawls and his sisters how to read and write. He says that reading the book The Call of the Wild changed his life and gave him the notion that he would like to grow up to write a book like it. He shared his dream with his father, and his father gave him the encouraging advice, "Son, a man can do anything he sets out to do, if he doesn't give up." Rawls never forgot his father's words, and went on to create two novels about his boyhood that have become modern classics.


In the Classroom

Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys are excellent books to use for a classroom novel study and for reading aloud. Because the books share a common setting and deal with related themes, they are especially good for teaching children how to critically analyze two similar novels. Both novels are filled with humor, adventure, and a poignancy that will appeal to all middle-grade readers.

Pre-Reading Activity

Tell the class that Wilson Rawls' novels are reminiscent of his boyhood days in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. Share with the students Jay Berry Lee's statement, "You know if a fellow can learn something through experience when he's a young boy if he doesn't ever forget it." Have each student ask an adult family member to share with them something that they learned in their youth that they have never forgotten. Encourage each student to share these family stories.

Thematic Connections

Determination --
In Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy Coleman's grandfather says that determination and willpower are good for a man to have. More than anything, Billy wants two hound dogs to train for hunting. Jay Berry Lee in Summer of the Monkeys dreams of buying a rifle and a pony. How does each boy go about realizing his dream? What does each boy's determination to achieve his goal say about his character? At what point in each novel would it have been easier to give up? How does setting a goal and working to achieve that goal help a person grow and mature?

Responsibility -- Ask the class to make a two column chart. List the many ways that Billy Coleman shows responsibility in one column. In the other column, list how Jay Berry Lee displays responsibility. How does each boy's upbringing promote responsible behavior?

Family and Relationships -- Billy Coleman and Jay Berry Lee are both only sons in a close-knit family. Ask students to describe each boy's family. How are they similar? How are they different? How is each boy's relationship with his father different from his relationship with his mother?

Ask students to compare and contrast Billy Coleman's relationship with his three sisters to Jay Berry Lee's relationship to his little sister. What role does each boy's family play in helping him realize his dream? How might the Coleman and Lee family values be influenced by the Depression era?

Intergenerational Relationships -- In Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy Coleman says, "I'm sure no one can understand a young boy like his grandfather can." Ask students to cite evidence from the novel that indicates this type of understanding. Encourage the class to contrast Billy's relationship with his grandfather to his relationship with his father. Why might it be easier to be a grandfather than a father? How does Billy's grandfather help him achieve his ultimate goal?

Jay Berry Lee's grandfather plays a very important role in the life of his grandson in Summer of the Monkeys. Ask students to describe their relationship. Why does Jay Berry's grandpa bring the crippled pony home? At what point does Jay Berry understand what his grandfather is trying to tell him? How does his grandpa help the entire Lee family realize their dreams?

Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts
-- In Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy Coleman's mother calls him "Daniel Boone." Ask students to read about Daniel Boone and explain why Mrs. Coleman makes this comparison. How might Daniel Boone also be an appropriate nickname for Jay Berry? Instruct students to select one of the boys and write a short paper comparing him to Boone.

Daisy says to Jay Berry, "I learn things by reading. If you would read something besides those old hunting and fishing stories, you might learn something, too." Ask students to write a letter that Billy Coleman might write to Jay Berry Lee telling him why he might enjoy reading Where the Red Fern Grows. Students may also enjoy making a list of other novels that they would recommend to both boys.

Social Studies -- Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys are set during the Great Depression in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. Most of the people in this area made their living by farming or owning small businesses. Ask students to find evidence in the novels that the people were faced with financial difficulties. How did the Great Depression create different problems for city dwellers? Send students to the library to research the government's role in helping people like Billy's and Jay Berry's families come through the Depression.

Social Studies/Science -- Billy Coleman and Jay Berry Lee are excellent hunters. How do both science and social studies apply to hunting? Ask students to find out the hunting and trapping laws in their state. What state agency regulates the hunting laws? Instruct students to find out about the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Then ask them to discuss how this law has changed the sport of hunting.

Engage the class in a discussion about hunting safety rules. Ask each student to create a poster that illustrates one of the rules. Display the posters so that students throughout the school might be made aware of hunting safety.

Science -- Billy Coleman learns a lot about raccoons from his grandfather. Why do Jay Berry Lee and his grandfather have to go to the library to find out about monkeys? What does each boy learn about the behavioral characteristics of each animal? Challenge students to locate further information about each animal and identify one very unusual fact. Then have the class construct an illustrated booklet entitled "Strange Behaviors of Monkeys and Raccoons." Which animal might make the best pet?

Math--Jay Berry Lee wins $100 by capturing the monkeys. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to survey local banks and find out the interest rate on a passbook savings account. Suppose a person deposits $100 in a savings account at the bank that has the best interest rate. Calculate how much money the person would have in the bank after one year. How much money would be in the account after five years?

Billy Coleman works to make enough money to buy two hound dogs. Find out the approximate cost of two hound dogs today. Have the students make a list of the jobs they might do to earn money to purchase the dogs. Suppose they are paid $5.00 per hour for their work. How many hours would they have to work to earn enough money to buy the dogs? Then have them calculate the approximate cost to care for and feed the dogs for one year. They should include such things as dog food, visits to a veterinarian, etc.

Drama -- Billy Coleman enjoys listening to his grandfather's tall tales about coon hunting. Ask each student to select a favorite hunting episode from Where the Red Fern Grows. Instruct them to tell the story as Billy might have told it to his family. Tell the students to include words and phrases like "sufferin' bullfrogs" that are indicative of the Ozark Mountains.

Art--Divide the class into four groups and assign each group a season of the year. Send them to the library to research the types of trees and flowers that grow in the Ozark Mountains. Ask each group to create a mural that illustrates what they might see if driving through the Ozark Mountains during their assigned season. Allow them to use colored chalk, collage, crayon, marker, or any medium that might best illustrate the beauty of the mountains in their particular season.

Vocabulary/Use of Language

Explain to students the meaning of colloquialism. How does language use reflect the time and place of a novel? Ask students to scan Rawls' novels and point out specific colloquialisms. Then have them ask their families about colloquialisms that reflect the area of the country where they grew up. Create a chart listing the various colloquial expressions that each student collects.

Teaching Ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.


Awards for Where the Red Fern Grows

New Hampshire Great Stone Face Award


review for Summer of the Monkeys

"Fourteen-year-old Jay Berry and his dog Rowdy discover a tree full of monkeys on the Ozark river bottom in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century." -- VOYA


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