The Murderer's Ape
THE MURDERER’S APE by Jakob Wegelius is a title of some note in Europe. The originally Swedish middle-grade novel is a journey centering around an ape of superior intelligence and her talents as a mechanic and all around good friend. The ape in question has one name and one name only: Sally Jones. In a humorous introduction, Sally Jones states very clearly that humans have two names but she has only the one and it is “Sally Jones.” She is the best protagonist and narrator in a young adult novel I have read since I don’t know when.
"Jakob Wegelius has produced an instant classic. As both author and illustrator on this jewel of young adult literature, Wegelius makes the whole book ooze with the effects of absolute creative unity."
When we meet Sally Jones, she has had a rough go of life in her youth. Sally Jones explains that she can’t quite remember her youngest days but she does remember being held captive in cages and being mistreated by many humans, but we meet her in the happiest days of her life, as a grease monkey on her best friend’s boat. Her best friend in the world, Henry “The Chief” Koskela is the nicest human in the whole wide world and they, for a time, kept each other company on the high seas and along the rivers of Portugal. This is, of course, until Sally Jones and the Chief took a shipping job that mixed them up with bandits and criminals and landed the Chief in prison --- for murder!
When her best friend is falsely accused of the murder of an anarchist sympathizer, Sally Jones sets out on the quest of a lifetime to prove his innocence while continuing to live her own life in the process. This adds an angle to the story seldom seen in the young adult level.
What follows is a really heartfelt and genuine journey of the purest kind. Sally Jones learns to live with the grief of a world that is turned on its head and builds a life for herself. She struggles in a world of people entirely unlike her against every adversity possible and comes out on top, while always being a better person than those around her. Remember, this is extra hard because she’s an ape. This book is about the long haul --- patience, kindness and compassion in the face of every prejudice and evil.
Jakob Wegelius has produced an instant classic. As both author and illustrator on this jewel of young adult literature, Wegelius makes the whole book ooze with the effects of absolute creative unity. A quirkiness that only comes when all the pieces come from one clever person makes this book, despite its size, very easy to fall into and very hard to put down.
Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on February 13, 2017