Monkey and Me ISBN: 9781848773356
Published by Templar Publishing, 2014
James/Jez/Beanie is 'nine years, eleven months and seven days' when our story begins, and until he becomes ten, he isn't allowed to be a full member of his older brother Mark's gang, consisting of Skimp, Pete-the-feet, and Rocky. But he is probationary and often goes along on their gang outings. He is a plucky lad and up for almost anything, but it soon becomes apparent that he has a problem. Somewhere along the way, we learn he has leukaemia , that his parents are very worried, and that his mum tries to overprotect him. With Beanie, this is difficult, and he regularly gets into scrapes, either with the gang or by himself. But it is only when he finds a chimp in a derelict house that his serious problems really begin. Determined to save the chimp (whom he names Malcolm) because he is convinced he will be used for medical research, he takes it upon himself to take care of the monkey. Malcolm has been taught sign language of sorts, and in an effort to understand him better, Beanie enlists the aid of Tracy, a deaf girl in his school, who demands as her reward that she become part of the gang too, (the gang is completely in on the plot to save Malcolm by this time) and reluctantly, they agree. Tracy is a wonderfully drawn character, very sure of herself and quite different to everyone else in the school. While she doesn't play a huge part in the action, she is important to the plot. There are two villains who are after Malcolm, and in a somewhat contrived but very exciting denouement, in which Beanie (soon after a chemotherapy session) rescues Malcolm and carries him off , first by bicycle, and then as a secret passenger in a large lorry. If we have to suspend disbelief here for a bit, it hardly matters, and Beanie and Malcolm are soon reunited with the people who love them. We don't learn what happens to Beanie's leukaemia ; the story ends with him in hospital because of his adventures, but we feel that such a plucky, bright and lovable lad will be okay in the long run, and we desperately want him to be. Malcolm, too, has been ill and needs help, and the two are destined to remain great friends. Funny and tender by turns, this is a great story, full of 'joie de vivre', and as it is told by Beanie himself, we see his parents reactions to his illness from his own point of view. He understands they are concerned, but he really isn't, which is why he is able to keep up his active life without worrying about himself. Set in Liverpool, it is an excellent adventure about a child who never lets his health stop him from doing what he thinks right.