Jessica and David, whose respective parents work at a Central African research station, are drawn together by their concern for two of the experimented-upon animals. When David learns that the baboons Papio and Upi will soon be put to death, he and Jess free the beasts and lead them into the bush. After discovering that Papio and Upi cannot fend for themselves, the children take them further into the wilderness and introduce them into a troop of wild baboons. David and Jessica succeed so well that for a brief time they too become members of the baboon troop. With its thoughtful exploration of the border that separates humans from their primate cousins, Kelleher's story is reminiscent of Peter Dickinson's Eva , but without that novel's quirky individuality. While the baboons' social life is convincingly observed, the human characters--despite numerous asides concerning their emotional states--remain lifeless. The plot, also, is overloaded with coincidences. Still, the combination of accurate baboon lore, abundant adventure and a splendid evocation of the African countryside amply outweighs the novel's faults. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Gr 6-10-- David, a 14-year-old Australian, and Jessica, an African-American teen, are in Central Africa with their parents, who are conducting research on tropical diseases. At the same site, baboons are used in experiments that the young people consider brutal. In an effort to protect the two animals they believe will be the next to die, David and Jess release them, steal a Land Rover, and flee with them to a wild escarpment. While their first plan is to find a safe haven for the baboons, they quickly realize that the animals are too attached to their human protectors for them to leave. They find a large troop of baboons, into which they and their two charges are eventually accepted. The pair decide that they do not want to return to civilization. Eventually, they are forced to surrender, coming to the realization that their interference has caused the troop's decimation. Kelleher's lengthy descriptions of the hilly country and the wildlife, and his grappling with ethical themes, make this adventure story a thoughtful title for discussion. While his voice occasionally intrudes too loudly in the narrative, readers will find themselves caught up in this story of two peers surviving in the wild and learning to accept the consequences of their well-intentioned actions.-- Ellen Fader, Westport Public Library, CT
Jess, an African American girl, and David, an Australian boy, live at the African research station where their scientist parents work. Repulsed by the experimental surgery carried out there on baboons, Jess and David kidnap two of the animals and help them join a group of baboons in the wild. The children live with them, becoming more hostile toward other humans as they defend their animal family. There's no happy ending here, but the book raises many issues regarding family, society, violence, and responsibility, in addition to the obvious issue of research on animals. Kelleher writes an involving adventure story with some surprisingly complex characters. Still, he tends to draw back into analytical commentary at key moments, as though reining in any emotional intensity before it gets out of hand. Nevertheless, this survival story will please many readers, particularly those fond of animals.