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Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon
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Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon

4.57  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Jim was a South African railway inspector in the late 1800s who lost his legs in an accident while at work. Unable to perform all his tasks with his disability but desperate to keep his job, Jim discovered a brilliant solution, a baboon named Jack. Jim trained Jack to help him both at home and at the depot. But when the railway authorities and the public discovered a monke ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published February 1st 2020 by Capstone Editions
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La Coccinelle
What an interesting story! I'd never heard of Jack the baboon or his friend, Jim Wide. I'm glad I got a chance to read this book and find out more about this unique pair.

Jim was a double amputee, and had trouble doing some tasks. When he had the opportunity to buy Jack, an intelligent baboon, he took it, and the two became close friends. Jack started out helping Jim with various tasks in the man's life, but proved to be so intelligent that he was eventually able to be employed by the railway as
This is my new favorite non-fiction book for middle graders. It's heavily illustrated in a beautiful way that accentuates the very true story of Railway Jack the baboon. I have to admit, I thought some liberties were taken with the story due to how incredible it is, but the author spent a large amount of time researching and cites his sources. Speaking of which, this is an excellent introduction as to how to do exactly that for children on the cusp of writing papers. It also covers the history o ...more
Steff Fox
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
| Read on Reader Fox |

Railway Jack by KT Johnston and illustrated by César Samaniego is such an amazingly inspirational story about a disabled man and the service animal, a monkey called Jack, who changes his life. After losing both of his legs in an accident, Jim struggled to keep up with the daily requirements of his job. He soon gets Jack, a monkey to whom he teaches various aspects of his job that he now finds difficult to complete, such as pulling the levers to change the tracks. As pe
Carla Johnson-Hicks
Another great true story about a person who does everything he can to overcome obstacles and situations that could change his life forever. When Jim lost his legs to an accident in the railyard where he worked, he didn't want to lose his job. Desperate to keep working, he had to come up with a solution and he did. He trained a baboon named Jack to do some of the jobs on command. When the railway officials found out about Jack, they almost took Jim's job away, but Jack and Jim worked together to ...more
This is the true story of Jim Wide who lost his lower legs in an industrial train accident. However, he still needed to earn a living, and so begged to be able to work. He got a job as a signal man, working the switches, and comes across a trained baboon that he rescues to help him at his job.

He trains the baboon to help him with the switches, and the become a team.

Interesting story of a very early service animal, and how loved he was. The author was amazed at what had been written about Jack, a
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
I had never heard this story and what a super cool way to tell younger children about a piece of history. What a wonderful story about an early service animal. Thank you for sharing this story!
Interesting story. Loved learning about this friendship between a person and a baboon. Didn’t like the typeface- found it annoying and cheapening. Pictures didn’t do much for me either.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ng, 2020
Railway Jack is a true, charming and unlikely story of Jim, a railway guard, and a baboon called Jack. Around 1875 Jim Wide was the railway guard at Uitenhage Station in South Africa. Following a work accident he had to have both his legs amputated. Not one to give up easily he made his own wooden legs and asked to be rehired by the railway authorities. This they did and he became a signalman.
Eventually he bought a baboon who he trained to pull the signal levers amongst many other jobs. They end
Leah Horton
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Railway Jack is a true story about a baboon in South Africa who helped his human Jim as a service animal when Jim lost his legs in an accident. Jim, and Jack looked out and helped one another for years. They were inseparable.

This book showed how amazing the bonds of friendship can be between humans and animals. I found this story to be so incredible and hard to believe.

The images were adorable and the pictures at the end were just fantastic.
Charlotte Lisbon
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Digital Arc via Netgalley. This story was cute and heartwarming. The Illustration were beautiful and real life pictures educational. More detailed review to follow upon publication
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love historical fiction, and this one was definitely a story that I had never heard before. Back in the late 1800s in South Africa, a man named Jim lost his legs in an accident while working on train track repairs. He still needed to work, so he was trained to be a signalman, moving trains to their proper tracks. One day, he comes across a man who had a baboon as an assistant, and strikes a deal to purchase Jack. What follows is an amazing story of how Jack the baboon becomes an imperative ser ...more
A.J. Irving
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-pb
After railway guard Jim Wide was injured and his legs were amputated, he met a smart baboon named Jack who he thought might be able to help him to continue to work. Jim and Jack became fast friends. Jack was loyal, clever, and observant. Before long, Jack learned how to count train whistles and pull the correct switch levers to direct trains to their destinations. The railway even paid Jack a “wage” of vegetables and fruit! People from all over rode trains to see the famous baboon.

My eight-year
A neat corner of history -- a railway man who lost his legs below the knee trains up a baboon as a service animal. They become famous as Jack learns to do most of the work as a signalman, pushing levers to change train directions (switches).

The realistic pictures are interesting and the words tell the story well. The backmatter has as essay by the author describing the process of finding and selecting information and the eventual fate of Jack the baboon (and Jim), original photos of Jack and his
Adam Blackman
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating true story of an amputee and his service animal. Set in 1880's South Africa, this is the story of Jim, a railroad worker who's lost his legs and is struggling to make it through his work days. When he spots and trades for Jack, a baboon with a remarkable ability to learn and inclination to assist, a local legend is born: a baboon trained to operate railroad switches as well as assisting his person to get around and get by.

The tender relationship and informative back matter will ma
Emma Smith
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This nonfiction picture book, about a baboon who became a devoted service animal and friend to a railway worker who had lost his legs, is a real winner. The details of the story--how Jack the baboon basically learned how to listen and look for cues to pull the correct levers to switch track for trains coming into and leaving the station--are quite incredible. And the tender relationship between the man and his baboon is very moving. Excellent back matter (including photos) will appeal to kids wh ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this intriguing bit of history, K.T. Johnston and Cesar Samaniego tell the story of a baboon named Jack who worked side-by-side with Jim, a railway worker in S. Africa who had lost both his legs due to an accident in the late 1800s. Jim was innovative and found clever ways to aid his mobility and keep up with his rail job. But when he acquired Jack, a quick-learning baboon who was eager to please, Jim found a partner, a helper, and a friend. Photographs of Jim and Jack make for fascinating ba ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a captivating tale of a special bond between a Jim (a human) and Jack (a baboon) perfect for any animal-loving kid. When Jim loses his legs and becomes disabled, he comes up with ingenious solutions that allow him to do his work. Eventually, he has the best idea of all -- partnering with Jack, a baboon he trains who performs many jobs at the railyard. This is an engaging true story focused on a special human/animal relationship.
Kirstie Myvett
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Railway Jack tells the true story of a friendship between a service baboon and railway signalman. The author does a great job of explaining the ins and outs of the railway and the importance of work for Jim and how Jack made it all possible. The illustrations are beautiful with an author’s note, definitions and questions at the end. I especially enjoyed the black and white photos of the real Jim and Jack. This book is a great addition to your nonfiction collection.
Annette Schottenfeld
Apr 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Readers will fall in love with Jack, a bright baboon who becomes more than a service animal to railway guard Jim Wilde. Based on actual events, Railway Jack is brought to life by KT Johnston’s beautifully written story. Children and adults will be captivated by this unlikely pair and learn many historical facts. Cesar Samaniego’s illustrations capture the emotions of Jack and Jim, and details of the time period. This is a must read!
Charlotte Offsay
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this fascinating new picture book for the older end of the picture book crowd. It is the story of Jim, a railway inspector in the late 1800s who lost his legs during a work accident. After the accident, Jim bought a baboon named Jack to help him work. This book is the story of their life together and of their heartwarming friendship.
Jennifer Buchet
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This picture book really makes history fun! I never would have heard about a baboon working on the tracks if it wasn't for this charming tale. Great read and animal lovers & train fans will love it equally! ...more
Kaylynn Johnsen
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid
This true story of an amazing baboon named Jack and his human named Jim Wide is a wonderful tale of overcoming obstacles and being creative and adaptable.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Amazing true story of a baboon who becomes a help to a railway man who looses his lower legs in an accident.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Delightful look at a unique service animal
Miriam Shaw
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is something so heartwarming about animals and humans learning to work together and having a great friendship.
Claire Annette
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jim Wide was a railway guard in South Africa during the 1870s. Unfortunately, he lost his legs in a railway accident and was no longer able to inspect trains. He made himself wooden prosthetic legs and convinced the railway to continue to employ him. He became a signal man and with creative persistence, he made a specialized cart and was able to do his job. But, there were things that were difficult to do and he continued to look for solutions. That’s when he met Jack, a baboon that helped a man ...more
Katie Reilley
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Capstone for sharing an early copy with our #bookexpedition group!

Set in South Africa in the late 1800s, Railway Jack is a true story of a railway worker named Jim and a baboon named Jack that becomes his service animal.

Jim lost his legs in an accident at work. As a result, he was unable to fully perform the tasks assigned to him as a railway inspector. Desperate to feel useful and buy food for himself, Jim made himself wooden legs and was given a job as a signalman. One day at a
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With vivid imagery and dynamic writing, the story hooks you from the start with an engaging portrait of the life of Jim, a railway inspector in the late 1800s. But soon Jim has an accident that results in the amputation of both legs. And because there were little to no social services available to help people with disabilities at that time, it was up to Jim to carve himself wooden legs and to write to the railway, begging to be rehired.
He was given a job as a signalman. And though that job was
Andrea Pole
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Railway Jack by KT Johnston is the true story of a railway worker named Jim and his baboon Jack, the latter being the titular character in this charming tale of fortitude and friendship. Children of all ages will delight in the quirkiness of this true to life tale which is skillfully brought to life by beautiful illustrations, and photographs that have been generously shared by Jim's family. The story is followed by a brief section on the history of service animals over the centuries and should ...more
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KT Johnston writes historical narrative nonfiction. KT's interest in the past developed from a sweeping curiosity about the way things were and how history has impacted the way things are. She enjoys feeding her interests by traveling, whether she's touring a historical site, experiencing a foreign land, or mind-wandering in a good book. Born in Minnesota, KT earned a degree in biology and conduct ...more

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