Jay Berry tries to catch wily runaway monkeys, desperately wanting the reward money. 14-year-old Jay Berry lives a happy life in the Cherokee state of Oklahoma. His family is poor, and cannot even afford to have his crippled sister's leg fixed, but they work hard and hope for the best. Needless to say, it is out of the question for Jay to buy the pony and gun he has always wanted.
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One day Jay and his dog see a monkey in the woods. Jay is confused until his grandpa tells him that there is a whole pack of escaped circus monkeys roaming the area, and there is a handsome reward for their capture. One super smart monkey, their leader, is even worth $100. Hearing about this, Jay resolves to catch the monkeys or die trying.
Capturing the wily monkeys is much harder than Jay expected, but his failures are not from lack of trying. He tries all sorts of methods, all of which yield absolutely nothing. First he conceals traps and places food in them, but the monkeys outsmart him. They snap the traps shut with sticks, then boldly take the prized food. When they see Jay, they bare their teeth at him and charge, screeching and tearing his clothes. Later on Jay realizes that they also stole his knapsack. This humiliation only increases his desire to catch them.
Jay is convinced that the monkeys are being led by the one big smart one. So he tries to make friends with him, but the monkey gets him drunk then steals his pants. Jay tries more aggressive approaches after this, but the only thing he catches is a cold. Daisy takes care of him, hobbling around on her crutch.
Jay takes a break from monkey-catching when Daisy discovers a fairy ring, which is believed to have a wish-granting power. Seeing her struggle even with her crutch, Jay unselfishly wishes that Daisy will be healed.
Jay and his grandpa continue to think up ingenious ways to trap or trick the monkeys, but their plans are interrupted by a huge, devastating storm. After it dies down, Jay goes to the monkey's hangout spot, and finds them huddled together, crying. Jay pities the shivering, defeated monkeys and carries them to the sunshine. Finally trusting Jay, the monkeys form a procession and follow him home. He pens them up and awaits the reward.
Jay receives the reward money and can only think about the pony and gun he is going to buy. Suddenly he is reminded of sweet little Daisy, whose twisted leg badly needs an operation. Giving up his own dreams, Jay pays for her operation and his parents are touched. Jay knows he did the right thing but is constantly haunted by the pony in his dreams.
The story ends happily; Daisy returns from the hospital as good as new and the family celebrates together. Furthermore, Jay finally gets the pony he wanted so badly, as a present from Grandpa.
Best part of story, including ending:
Jay thinks up some crazy ways to catch the monkeys but they always outsmart him. For example, he intends to set traps for them but the monkeys steal the traps. Then he tries to befriend them but they steal his pants. They act like humans with a sense of humor.
Best scene in story:
Jay has been trying every possible way to catch the monkeys, but in the end they follow him home of their own accord. The big monkey even holds his hand and submits docilely. Jay walks through the forest with a parade of bedraggled monkeys following him.
Opinion about the main character:
Jay has been looking forward to owning a pony and a horse, but he loves his sister and uses the money for her instead. He is unselfish even though it hurts him to give up his own wants.