Orangutan Fu Manchu makes a monkey out of his zookeepers.
Twelve-year-old orangutan Fu Manchu lives with his family group in a zoo enclosure. After obtaining a length of wire, he figures out how to pick the lock on the door. He lets his family out, and they climb the trees above the elephant corral to enjoy the sun and the leaves. Their afternoon siesta doesn’t last long. Jerry, the head zookeeper, blames his staff for leaving the door unlocked and then returns Fu and his family to the enclosure. The next nice day, they escape again. Jerry and his staff double-check the locks, but Fu has his secret piece of wire. He can escape whenever he wants to, and he does. Jerry continues to blame his staff until they band together and catch Fu using something to pick the lock. But what is it? They can’t find anything he might have used in his pen…until Jerry spies a glint of metal in Fu’s mouth. Neme’s debut for children is based on a true story and a real ape, though she says in an author’s note that some details are speculation—not the least of which are Fu’s thoughts and motivations. Kelleher’s watercolors are realistic enough with a few cartoon touches: A panicked chipmunk and pigeon observe Fu’s initial escape.
An interesting exploration of animal intelligence for budding zoologists, so long as they take the anthropomorphization with a grain of salt. (Picture book. 5-8)