Cover image for The baboon king
The baboon king
Quintana, Anton.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Bavianenkoning. English
Publication Information:
New York : Walker and Co., 1999.

Physical Description:
183 pages : map ; 22 cm
Son of a Kikuyu mother and a Masai herdsman father, Morengáru the hunter lives on the edges of tribal society until an actual banishment forces him to make a life for himself among a troop of baboons.
General Note:
"First English language edition published in 1996 in Australia"--T.p. verso.
Reading Level:
850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.4 8.0 34714.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.1 12 Quiz: 21120 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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Morengaru, a strong young hunter, has been cast out by both his mother's people, the Kikuyu, and his father's people, the Masai. Every day he misses human companionship, and soon he feels as though he's becoming more like the animals around him. When Morengaru has the chance to belong again, he seizes the opportunity. Then he faces the greatest challenge of his life: living among the baboons, still clinging to his humanity, hoping someday to return to his people.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Raised by a Kikuyu mother sold into marriage to his Masai father, Morengaru is never fully accepted by either tribe. He returns to his mother's birthplace because "life with the Masai had become impossible," but as a half-Masai, Morengaru lives apart from the rest of the Kikuyu tribe. When he kills the leopard that has been threatening the tribe's cattle, he earns a cow and bull of his own and, with his new property, a place of esteem among the Kikuyu. Yet he loses everything, and is even banished from the tribe, after he accidentally kills a young nyama (spear carrier) who plays a prank by dressing up in the offending leopard's skin and rousing Morengaru from his sleep. Dutch writer Quintana is at his best when Morengaru thrills to the hunt; his descriptions of the baboon tribe, and especially the pivotal lion kill that earns Morengaru his Masai moran spear are riveting. But the narrative switches points of view often, particularly at the beginning of the novel, from that of the leopard to Morengaru's vindictive Kikuyu grandfather to Morengaru himself, sometimes in the same paragraphÄand even breaks into second-person narration at times; and the sporadic use of flashback is confusing. The author never explains why Morengaru would leave the Masai after his triumphant showdown with the lion, nor will readers likely understand why he leaves the baboons at the close of the novel. Quintana imparts some interesting facts about life on the grasslands, but leaves too many threads hanging. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Half Kikuyu and half Masai, Morengaru belongs to neither world. Gravely injured while living as an outcast, he is taken in by a troop of baboons. The visceral descriptions, explorations of the animals' psychology, and realizations about his own humanity make this a memorable, even mystical novel. (June) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 UpA marvelous trip of discovery, gracefully and grippingly told. Quintana introduces readers to two East African cultures through Morengru, a young man born of a Kikuyu mother and Masai father, and therefore truly of neither group. He now lives alongside, but not exactly among, the Kikuyu, peaceful civilized farmers whom he views through the eyes of his Masai upbringing, thus showing this hunting peoples scorn for what they consider to be earth-grubbers. Morengrus aloof arrogance in this part of the novel will appeal to teens. After accidentally killing a Kikuyu tribesman, Morengru is ceremonially expelled from the village, and he refuses to do the expectedto plead for his readmittancethus exiling himself. However, when he sets off on a solitary journey as a man without a country, his pride begins peeling away. Readers see his fears and the pain of being an outsider. Then he falls in with a troop of baboons and becomes, through a bloody fight with their leader, their new king. He learns the meanings of their various calls and gestures and the structure of their tribal order. The climax comes when Morengru is finally able to contribute to the troop and he realizes that his humanity demands that he return to live among humans. This remarkable novel deserves to be placed alongside such classic looks at the human condition as Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace, and recommended to readers who loved Gary Paulsens Hatchet (Macmillan, 1986) and are seeking other adventures at a more advanced level.Coop Renner, Coldwell Elementary-Intermediate School, El Paso, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.