Monkey and Me by David Gilman
Puffin, 2014. ISBN 9780143308232.
(Age: All) Thoroughly recommended. This wonderful, heart-warming story of a young boy who befriends a very nervous, bewildered, but highly intelligent chimpanzee, is one of the most enjoyable children's books I have read. Patient leukaemia suffer, philosophical nine-year-old Beanie, is quite desperate to 'prove' himself, to be accepted as a full member into his older brother's gang.
Desperate to save the Sweet Dreams Sweet Factory (that makes his favourite sweets) from demolition, he dangles a banner from a fourth floor fire escape and narrowly escapes falling as the structure pulls away from the wall. Gifted with a wacky sense of humour, Beanie's good-natured dad, rescues the boy, without reproof.
Exploring the haunted house Black Gate with the gang, Beanie becomes lost and after being terrified out of his wits, encounters the hungry chimpanzee who he names Malcolm, in the overgrown greenhouse. Beanie quickly wins the chimp's trust, bringing him food and reading to him. He realises, to his astonishment, that Malcolm can 'sign' certain messages. Not understanding sign language, the lad has to engage (with a dubious promise of full gang membership) the help of deaf girl Tracy.
She is able to interpret the chimpanzee's signing and Beanie is overwhelmed when told Malcolm signs that he loves the boy.
However, baddies Potato Face and Comb Head are out to capture the chimp and Beanie must save his little friend, especially as the Police and RSPCA are also searching for the animal.
With his brother's help, Beanie brings Malcolm home overnight, with disastrous results. Ever resourceful, Beanie conceals the chimp in the Postie Bag on his father's bike. A crazy ride ensues until the pair hide out in a trucking yard and stow away clandestinely in a King of the Road cab, travelling some distance, completely unbeknown to the driver.
A Roadhouse CCTV is their undoing, the truck is halted and the weary pair removed from their hiding place. Beanie is relieved to learn that clever Malcolm is taking part in a Research Programme in Animal Communication and is in fact well looked after.
Written entirely in the first person, Monkey and Me is hilarious, thought-provoking, droll and I thoroughly recommend it for children of any age.