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Akimbo and the Baboons    by Alexander McCall Smith & LeUyen Pham order for
Akimbo and the Baboons
by Alexander McCall Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alexander McCall Smith, well known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie novels, also writes excellent chapter book series, including Harriet Bean, Max & Maddy, and these Akimbo adventures. LeUyen Pham's black and white illustrations bring the story's African context to life, and the author includes fascinating factoids about baboons in a Did You Know? section at the back of the book.

Akimbo's father is Head Ranger on a great game reserve in contemporary Africa. Now school is over for the year and Akimbo's cousin - and good friend - Kosi is coming for a three week visit. The day Kosi arrives, so does the baboon lady (a scientist, Jen, who studies baboons.) She'll be living in a small hut in the park to study the habits of a large troop of baboons - she's especially interested in how they share their food, which will help her understand how they see the world.

The boys are thrilled when their parents agree to their assisting Jen in her study - a paid job. Soon after they settle in at the hut, curious baboons come to look them over. That night Akimbo saves Jen from a predator. The next day they watch baboons playing and grooming - and have their lunch stolen. They also decide to help a baboon with an injured foot, which turns into quite an adventure. Later, when the boys get lost, a new friend helps them find their way.

As always, Alexander McCall Smith writes an engaging tale, giving his readers young and old a window into the African bush - and in this case also the baboon lifestyle - along the way. Don't miss Akimbo and the Baboons.

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