narrative nonfiction
for readers ages 8-12

and everyone else


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Available through Fogarty’s Bookshop in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Available in the U.K. as well.

I like to tell little-known tales from the past; stories about special animals who profoundly impacted the lives of everyday people, and in doing so, made a mark on history—and in a way, on humanity itself.

Jack was exactly that.


courtesy of César Samaniego
© Capstone
courtesy of César Samaniego
© Capstone

Well, monkey. Have I just bought myself more trouble?”

RAILWAY JACK is the true story of the remarkable partnership between a railwayman and a baboon in 1880s South Africa.

When Jim Wide lost his legs in an accident, he had to find clever ways to get around and perform his work. He obtained a very unusual, and very smart, helper: a baboon named Jack. But not everyone was happy to see a baboon at the rail yard signal hut, and Jim was fired. He pleaded with the authorities to give Jack a chance and they agreed to a test. But what about a monkey’s monkey business?? Jim and Jack’s futures lay in the hands—er, opposable thumbs—of a baboon!

RAILWAY JACK should entertain and enlighten readers of any age, and provides several topics of conversation for young people and their adults.

Praise for Railway Jack

“A warm, engaging tale of the bond between a resourceful man and his service animal.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In the annals of service animals, there can be but few to equal Jack.”

“The book successfully shows people’s relationships with service animals and offers a positive portrayal of disability. A good conversation starter.”
School Library Journal

“A human story, a story of resilience, a story of a dependent relationship and the human/animal connection, and most of all, a story of great friendship.”
Kevin Kling, author, playwright, and commentator for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

Readers’ Comments

  • “It is a fascinating, heartwarming story that I look forward to sharing. What a delightful way to bring history to life, and to capture the imagination of a child.”

  • “This is my new favorite non-fiction book for middle graders. The author spent a large amount of time researching and cites sources. Speaking of which, this is an excellent introduction as to how to do exactly that for children on the cusp of writing papers.”

  • “At the end of the book there is a nice section that highlights the history of service animals. This would be great in a second-fifth grade classroom. As an adult reader I really enjoyed it!”

  • “Wonderful story. Must read to feel the bond between two friends of different species. Thanks to the author for immemorialising this story.”

  • “I loved how the author and illustrator showed the relationship between the two. Jack was not only a service animal to Jim, but also an emotional companion. I enjoyed the extensive back matter as well: author’s note; photos; information on primates; glossary; discussion questions; history of service animals; internet resources; and a bibliography.”

  • “It deals with not giving up, even when things are against you. It shows that people with disabilities can do whatever they put their minds to as long as they have the necessary supports in place. It also shows how important support animals are in the lives of those who need them…. A great book for public, school and classroom libraries.”

  • “What a super cool way to tell younger children about a piece of history.”

  • “It can be very easy for others to write off those with disabilities as being incapable of certain jobs or activities but Jim and Jack’s story puts to bed those sorts of ideas.”

  • “The story is well told and the photographs and information on the real Jack at the end is an added treasure.”

  • “The back matter in this story is AMAZING and I absolutely loved the real photos of Jack and Jim.”

illustration © Capstone
illustration © Capstone

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