The Bushbabies by William Stevenson ; Illustrated by Victor Ambrus
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965. First printing. Hardcover. 278 pages ; illustrated ; 22 cm. $3.50 dust jacket with minimal wear. Otherwise, a gently used copy with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.
Illustrated by Victor Ambrus
This is the story of an African journey made by three improbable companions: Jacqueline whose family is bound for England, her tiny pet tarsier called a bushbaby, and Tembo Murumbi, her father's former assistant and now her friend and protector.
Jackie's fierce devotion to her pet has led her to persuade Tembo to help her return the bushbaby to its native home. But what begins as a piece of foolish but forgivable childish determination soon develops into a flight with tragic implications. The authorities, believing Jackie to have been kidnaped by Tembo, issue orders to pursue and shoot him on sight. But this is not the only danger: prolonged drought has upset the wildlife, caused forest fires, and is soon to be ended by deluge and flood.
Jackie, Tembo, and the mischievous bushbaby move against a majestic background of riverbed, jungle, and plain, through a landscape filled with splendid animals and birds. Here is a country that Stevenson knows intimately, and he writes of it in vivid and loving detail.
As they penetrate ever deeper into Africa, so does Jackie's respect for Tembo grow and deepen as well. The drama of this adventure, and the puckish little saucer-eyed creature who caused it all, will stay long in the memory; but the widening awareness which the reader shares with Jackie and Tembo will make an even more lasting impression.
The bushbabies came into the life of the Canadian author and foreign correspondent, William Stevenson, who has an affection for strange lands and the people and wild animals living in them. His four children and his wife Glenys have lived with him in exotic places: in Hong Kong, India, Africa and Malaysia. Sometimes they return to base, to London or Toronto. Then begins the agony of separation from pets who cannot follow.
Kamau, the true bushbaby, refused to be parted from daughter Jackie when the Stevensons left Kenya. In this story, based upon the drama that followed, the second "bushbaby" is an African whose innocent relationship had the truly childlike qualities of love and devotion. The third babe in the bush was Jackie herself.
Mr. Stevenson has described what happened, in real life, when Kamau wheedled his way into the family affections: "He lived in what looked like a giant calabash — a baobab tree. He was lured out of it by saucers of beer . . . We were staying on a Kenya farm for Christmas, and I wanted to surprise Jackie. So I concealed him in a spare bathroom. During the night he toppled an open box of soap powder over himself, and then fell into his pan of drinking water. He emerged on Christmas Day looking like a snow-caked gnome — and won all hearts.
"His tricks kept the household in turmoil. When the time came to leave Kenya, there was panic. Bushbabies, often called galagos, require an export permit because they belong to the rare tarsier family. Our permit was lost."
The story begins with that moment of true drama. To reassure readers, the real-life Kamau has defied all the gloomy predictions of animal experts. He even survived the frozen countryside of Scotland, and he now lives in the tropical steam of Malaysia. He has traveled by sea and by jet from extremes of heat and cold, and he remains the same bushy-tailed prankster as he was when Africans called him "the tree dwarf."
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