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Baboon by David Jones


by David Jones

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I read this book in one go and this is perhaps the best way – to devour it!

This novel tells the story of Gerry, a fourteen-year old boy, whose parents are professional naturalists studying a pack of baboons in the African savannah. Flying together in a thunderstorm, their plane struck by lightning, they crash-land. Gerry, separated from his parents in the impact, finds himself first in the company of baboons and then experiences the awful dawning realisation that he has become one: a baboon, that is.

If you can get over the clichés of the convenient blackout and the rather obvious discovery of his transformation – and believe me, you should – then you can enjoy the ensuing yarn. Writing with pace, clarity and understanding, Jones shows Gerry/baboon as he joins the pack that his parents have been studying. As the days become weeks and the weeks months, Gerry learns his place in the pack and discovers that the phrase “pecking order” means precisely what it says on the can!

This animal-point-of-view novel would have been good enough if its author had been content to write a “fly on the wall” documentary of baboon society. But then Gerry, drawing on his fast dwindling human knowledge, first takes a farmer’s rifle and then makes a crude cudgel from the dead pilot’s ankle bone with a stone head gaffer-taped on it. He uses this to slay Lothar, his chief tormentor in the baboon pack. This ‘crime’ – as Gerry’s human element sees it – elevates him up the pack’s pecking order and he begins to bulk up as a baboon.

This novel’s other twist is that Gerry’s parents, through observing him in the pack, become aware that they are watching a very unusual, tool-slinging primate. At one point Gerry tries to communicate with them in writing and botches the job.

Of course, you can see the denouement clear across the savannah, but Jones handles it well and rounds the whole thing off quickly and efficiently. The account is wholly convincing. Reluctant mid-teen readers who perhaps prefer non-fiction may well be drawn to this book for its wealth of well-researched information about life in a baboon pack. The book is well plotted with enough tricky situations and cliff-hangers to make it worth buying as a class reader for Year 8s. It also deals with death in an unsentimental manner; but it will make its young readers pause for thought before they move on. Perhaps the best compliment to pay the book is to say that its author pulls off the tricky feat of running a continuous film in the reader’s head: from page one - until the last lingering fade-out on the baboon pack that Gerry has to leave behind – we are gripped! ( )
  Adrianburke1 | Aug 5, 2009 |
14 year old Gerry Copeland is traveling to the African savanna with his biologist parents to study baboons in the wilderness. Gerry would rather be at home playing video games. The plane gets hit by lightning, and crashes, When Gerry resumes consciousness, he realizes that he is now a baboon. Meanwhile, his body is actually in a coma, and will eventually end up in a hospital. This was a Red Maple nominee for the 2007-2008 season. David Jones does a great job of making the reader feel what it would be like to be in the body of a monkey. ( )
  JRlibrary | Jul 6, 2008 |
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When Gerry, 14, and his parents are flying to the African savannah, their plane crashes. When Gerry resumes consciousness, he discovers that he has come to live in the body of a baboon that is part of the group that his parents are researching. He uses his human intellect and powers of reason to ensure his survival and growing acceptance by the troop; he also documents his gradual loss of his ability to count and read and track the passing days. After eight months as a baboon, a terrifying incident with a leopard triggers the teen's re-entry into his own body. The author soundly grounds his novel in accurate scientific detail about baboons. (from Library School Journal)… (more)

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Annick Press

2 editions of this book were published by Annick Press.

Editions: 1554510538, 1554510546

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