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Chasing the Baboon

Deepa Agarwal

By Alexander McCall Smith. Illustrated by Peter Bailey
Bloomsbury, London, 2008, pp. 87, £6.30

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 11 November 2008

This entertaining book by the author of the best-selling No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is about two boys in Africa spending time in the bush and learning about the habits of baboons. There are several other titles in the popular Akimbo series, all about different animals.   Akimbo’s father is head ranger in a great game reserve and his cousin Kosi, who lives in a town is coming to stay with him during the holidays. Then they hear that a ‘baboon lady’ is also expected. Akimbo is bit disappointed when he discovers that she is not a baboon as he had hoped but someone who studies the habits of baboons. The excitement begins when the boys volunteer as her assistants. It is the first time that Akimbo will be going into the bush without his father, while Kosi has never been out camping before. They will also be paid a small amount, which makes Akimbo feel very important and grown up.   They learn a great deal about the habits of baboons from Jen, the ‘baboon lady’ and have many adventures as well. One night, Akimbo unexpectedly finds himself a hero when in an instinctive reaction, he saves Jen and scares away a leopard that is attacking the baboons. Soon the baboons begin to accept them and using their wits, the two of them remove a wire that has wounded a baboon they have named Ben. The real test comes when, overconfident of his skills, Akimbo takes Kosi so as to sight the baboons. The two boys lose their way on grassy land and night falls suddenly. This time it is Ben who responds to their shouts and leads them back to camp. Jen has told them that while baboons do help each other and have friendships, they may not develop similar relationships with humans. This time too she says that it could be a coincidence.   Akimbo, however, feels differently. ‘Akimbo was silent… But he was sure, in his heart of hearts, that Ben was repaying them for getting the wire off his leg—he was sure of that.’   This simply told tale offers much to the young reader. Apart from the enchanting descriptions of the bush, the habits of baboons come alive through the incidents in the story. The boys’ interaction with the baboons helps develop empathy for these animals that are often described as dangerous and quarrelsome.   What is ...

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