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Monkey Island Paperback – March 1, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fox ( The Village by the Sea ) has written a quietly terrifying, wholly compelling novel about the urban homeless, filtered through the experience of an 11-year-old boy. Clay's middle-class existence begins to shred when his art-director father loses his job and, eventually, his connection to his wife and child. He leaves without a word one day, and Clay and his pregnant mother end up in a welfare hotel, a place "where people in trouble waited for something better--or worse--to happen to them." And happen it does, for Clay's mother soon disappears as well, and Clay takes to the streets, to be befriended by two homeless men and reunited with his mother only after great tribulation. Once again Fox displays her remarkable ability to render life as seen by a sensitive child who has bumped up against harsh circumstances. Her understanding of Clay is keenly empathic and intuitive, and it seems near-total: she is as finely attuned to the small, surprising eddies of his thoughts as to their larger and more obvious stream. It is precisely this attention to the quiet, easily lost insight that gives her account its veracity and force. For example, one night Clay and a friend break into a church basement, and Clay spies a bulletin board. He is "faintly surprised. I can read, he thought"--a small jolt that shows us just how far from the world of school and homework he has traveled. Fox neither preaches about nor attempts to soften the stark realities of the life that is, temporarily, thrust upon Clay. Clear-eyed and unblinking as ever, she shows us the grit, misery and despair of the homeless, along with occasional qualified, but nonetheless powerful redemptive moments--the sharing of an apple or kind word by those with little to spare; for Clay, the bright smile of his newborn sister. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-- Eleven-year-old Clay Garrity's family had been what most people would consider an average family--until the magazine his father worked for went out of business and he couldn't find another job over the next year. Clay then experienced the gradual decline from that normal existence to one of abandonment by his father, the move to a welfare hotel and, at the beginning of the story, the disappearance of his mother who, with the added burden of a difficult pregnancy, is unable to cope with the daily struggle for survival. Clay eventually comes to a small park scornfully called "Monkey Island" for the homeless who live there. Here he is taken in by two men who share the wooden crate that offers them some shelter from the cold November winds. These three become a sort of family, holding on to some sense of humanity in a brutal and brutalizing world. For all of its harshness, Monkey Island is also a romanticized view of the world. Although Clay is not spared the hunger, fear, illness, and squalor of the streets, there is still a distancing from the more immediate types of violence that exist there. He is always on the edge of such danger, but no incidents actually touch him. In the end, it is pneumonia that brings him back into the social services system. After ten days in the hospital, the boy is placed in a foster home and shortly thereafter is reunited with his mother and baby sister in a conclusion that readers desire but that may strain credibility. This is a carefully crafted, thoughtful book, and one in which the flow of language both sustains a mood of apprehension and encourages readers to consider carefully the plight of the homeless, recognizing unique human beings among the nameless, faceless masses most of us have learned not to see. --Kay E. Vandergrift, School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440407702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440407706
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Garrett, age 11, lived the good life for a time. He had parents who were in love and who loved him, a father with a good job in NYC and a mother there whenever he needed her. Then one day his dad unexpectedly gets laid off from that seemingly solid job and all quickly goes to pot. While Garrett's father falls into a bit of a depression, his mother quickly takes some computer courses before getting a job to save the family finances. Unfortunately, Garrett's mother quickly advancing in her job only worsens his father's depression. Unable to handle the hit to his pride, Garrett's father just disappears one night. While trying to figure out what happened to her husband, Garrett's mother also resolves to be strong for her son as well as her unborn child -- which works... for a bit.

Garrett wakes up one day to find that now his mother has vanished. No clues to her whereabouts, only a little bit of money left under a box of stale donuts. After a few days without word from her, Garrett realizes he's alone in this grimy, run-down, junkie-riddled subsidized housing hotel. When the neighbor across the hall discovers Garrett has been left alone, Garrett makes a run for it in hopes to avoid being snatched up by Child Protective Services. Once outside, he has no idea where to go but quickly gets help from a couple of homeless men who offer to share their humble makeshift shelter. Garrett ends up staying with the men for a few months, relying on them for his survival throughout winter, as well as getting a first hand experience in homelessness. During this time he is also searching for any clues on his mother's whereabouts.

Don't wander around the streets. There are nightmares walking around looking somewhat human. But they aren't.
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By A Customer on December 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
I am so thankful that I found this book. I read it in one sitting and am looking forward to sharing it with my 6th-graders. Many of my students are only a few steps away from Clay's street hut. It is for them that I want to shed a light of hope. I think this book can help me do that for them. It is also a great book to read to children who have what they need to stay warm and well-fed. It will afford them the opportunity to get to know someone their age that must go without and take chances that have very uncertain outcomes.
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Format: Paperback
Paula Fox does an amazing job depicting homelessness in her book Monkey Island. Clay Garrity, an eleven year old boy, is left to fend for himself after his pregnant mother disappears. He meets two homeless men, Buddy and Calvin, who become his new family on the street. They care for him as best they can but the cold and lack of food are too much for Clay and he has to be taken to a hosiptal. Now he has to depend on Social Services to find out what happened to his mother and his new sibling.
I thought that Fox's description of Clay's life on the street was exceptional. Her language really flowed nicely and I felt like I was experiencing what Clay was. Fox also had the major dramatic question, "What happened to Clay's mother?". This question was the driving force while I read this book. I was so intrigued that I finished the book in one sitting.
The only problem I had with this book was the ending. I didn't think it was realistic. Fox had all of these well portrayed, complex issues throughout the book and the ending just seemed very simplistic compared to everything else.
However, overall I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it was well written, that language flowed together, and that it provided a realistic look at what life would be like on the streets.
I think this book would be a great tool to help teachers to portray homelessness and/or poverty to their students. This book would really force children to look at and understand the social problems that our society has and help them to relate to, and sympathize with, these problems.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a required summer school reading for my daughter but it was no longer in print. I was so happy to be able to find it for her. We both read the book and enjoyed it. Although it was a used book it was in great condition.
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Format: Paperback
Young Clay Garrity has been left behind. His father lost his job and left the family, including his pregnant mother. Now, for whatever reason, his mother has also left. Clay must deal with living on his own in fifth grade. He stops going to school and spends a lot of time scared and lonely. Another family moves into his apartment, and he has no place left for himself. This is a realistic tale of what it might mean to be a homeless kid in a big city. No bad language, and Clay does some growing up.

Might open the eyes of spoiled children that another, sorrier world exists, and that the homeless are people too.
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Format: Paperback
Monkey Island is a novel which presents issues of homelessness in many layers. Communities on the street are shown as sometimes being safer than indoor shelters. Social service agencies are given their share of criticism and praise, with the truth that their effectiveness often depends on the roll of the dice that is which case worker a child or family has. Through it all, Clay guides us on his perilous journey quietly and perceptively. Monkey Island raises more question than it answers, which is very appropriate for the young audience who will encounter it. They need not be given pat responses to complex social problems and this novel forces reflection and hopefully in some, positive action.
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