The Murderer’s Ape, by Jakob Wegelius
Now, I’m a bit of a fan of writers from the Nordic countries, perhaps because my ancestors were from that part of the world, but more likely because they seem capable of weaving a thread of melancholic mystery into their stories that only seems to come from the land of the midnight sun.
If you give your 11-year-old (boy or girl) no other book this year, make it this one by the Swedish author Jacob Wegelius. It was a best seller in Germany and Sweden and won the Best Children’s Book Prize last August. It’s a mystery and an adventure and has that mystical fable-istic (sorry to invent a word, but it’s so hard to describe) quality. However, it does need careful reading.
Sally Jones is a gorilla. Not just an ordinary gorilla (if there is such a thing) but a highly intelligent one that can think like a human. She is an engineer (yes, you read that right) and a friend of Chief, a cargo boat operator. They make a great team, until Chief is wrongly accused of murder and so begins Sally Jones’s quest to clear her friend’s name. The only trouble is, Sally can’t speak.
It’s no mean feat for an author to have a silent protagonist that is so integral to the whole story and for it to work so well. It’s a great book, a long book, a thought provoking book with some major themes (courage, corruption, fairness, resilience to name a few) but, above all else, it’s a page turner that keeps you reading and guessing to the end. I can see this being used in comprehensions texts in years to come.
We recommend this book for competent readers of 9+, both boys and girls, but it is ideal for 10+. We give this a Yellowbird rating of 5 out of 5 Yellowbirds: