Summer of the Monkeys is one of those youth classics that I never got around to reading, mainly because Wilson Rawls’s other classic, Where the Red Fern Grows, devastated me. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I remember lots and lots of crying over that book at a young age. Also, both books kind of remind me of the classic book and movie Old Yeller, which I can only think about through a haze of tears. Um, spoiler alert.
Anyways…. this Class III movie is set in the late 1800s/early 1900s and about a teenage boy, Jay (Corey Sevier), trying to earn money to buy a pony. And then his world gets turned upside down by a batch of circus monkeys who escaped during a train crash. The early part of this film focuses on the boy’s home life on the farm, and about 20 minutes in, Jay makes fun of his sister reading a book: “Talk to ME about tall tales. You and your stupid books. Everything I know, I learned by goin’ out and doin’ it.”
Yeah, we’ll see about that.
Turns out, Jay doesn’t know how to connect with those circus monkeys by just “going’ out and doin’ it.” Cue grandpa’s advice to check out the town library. Bless you, Wilford Brimley, you’re the best. ♥
So almost an hour in, we take a trip along with Quaker Oats grandpa and Jay to the Ridgewell town library (see right). This scenario reminded me a bit of the library scene in The Magic of Ordinary Days. The purpose of the scene is the same, as this small-town public library serves a vital function as a source of info for both its local and rural users.
And we get a lot of nice shots of the one-room library interior, which looks quite bright and cheery and welcoming. There’s a stove in the middle, a few chairs and tables, bookshelves along the back, oil paintings, all against a backdrop of off-white and green.
We also get nice close-ups of the reel librarian (Beverly Cooper). She’s blonde (again, kind of visually similar to the reel librarian in The Magic of Ordinary Days), middle-aged, and dressed in a period costume of puffed sleeves, high collar, long skirt, and cameo brooch. Her hair is pulled back in a bun, and of course, a pair of glasses complete her reel librarian uniform. I love the details of the quill pen and the large lamp on the Circulation desk. What I don’t love so much? The QUIET sign just inside the front door (see below).
Jay: Howdy, ma’am.
[Everybody looks up]
Jay (in a whisper): I’d like to see all the books you have on monkeys.
Librarian: Could you be more specific?
Jay: Well, I’m trying to trap a bunch of ’em. They’re from the train wreck a few weeks back. My grandpa thought that if I read up on ’em, it’d help me out.
Librarian (taking off her glasses): Why don’t you have a seat? I’ll bring some material over to you.
It’s interesting to note the librarian’s different facial expressions, which seem to change depending on whether or not she’s wearing glasses. Maybe she feels she has more authority when wearing spectacles? That she can’t smile unless the glasses are off?
Exhibit A, glasses on (click each image to view a larger version):
Exhibit B, glasses off:
So Jay sits down at a table beside a young girl (see below) and looks more than a little bit overwhelmed and out of his comfort zone. In the next shot, the librarian brings over a large stack of books, “This should get you started.” The boy looks up with big eyes and picks one up with a bewildered expression. There’s no explanation from the librarian about what’s in the books or how to use them. Sorry to say, this is an example of what NOT to do during a reference interview.
In the next shot, after some time has passed, we see a closeup of the materials all scattered on the desk, including a book entitled Young People’s Natural History (a real book! click here to view more info through WorldCat), plus a copy of a Ridgewell Chronicle news article about the train wreck. Obviously still overwhelmed, Jay turns to the young lady at his table — because she’s more approachable? — about how to pronounce some French words in the article. After they talk some more (the young lady is extremely helpful), the library bell dings, cutting to a disgruntled look from the librarian. The glasses are back on!
After the young lady leaves, the librarian steps back into frame, taking off her glasses.
Librarian: The library is closing, young man. You can leave the books where they are. (She starts clearing up, stacking books, putting lids on ink bottles, etc.)
Jay turns back and asks: Ma’am? That young lady who was sitting across from me? She come here much?
Librarian: I see her from time to time.
Jay: Thank you very much.
Librarian: Come back again.
Jay: I believe I will.
The scene ends with a shot of the librarian hugging some books to her chest, smiling (see above, in Exhibit B). She looks pleased, and the scene ends on a positive note. Jay uses the info to locate the monkeys and return them to the circus. Sure, the librarian’s an Information Provider, but she really wasn’t all that helpful. It was the young lady who really helped the boy out. And it’s because of her, NOT the librarian, that Jay wants to return to the library.
After he climbs back in the buggy with his grandpa, Wilford Brimley, bless him, sums it all up for us.
Grandpa: You say it was the young lady who helped you?