HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes
Author: Herbert Best
Illustrator: Erick Berry
Publisher: Puffin, republished 1941
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Best, Herbert. Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes (published in 1930 by Doubleday Doran and Company, Garden City, NY). Garram lives in the African village of Kwallak where his father Warock is the chief of the Hill tribes. When he and his dog Kon return from hunting in the plains to the west, his father’s rival Sura and Sura’s son Menud accuse Garram of stealing in an attempt to remove Warock so that Sura can take his place. The charges are shown to be false, but Sura and Menud vow revenge, so Garram’s uncle Rainmaker, the tribe’s priest, advises him to leave. He goes to the Fulani city of Yelwa where he saves the life of the Emir and joins his bodyguard. Yet even in Yelwa he makes enemies. Then he learns that things are not well in Kwallak. What happens to Warock? How does Garram deal with the plots against him? And will he ever make it back home?
This is the kind of exciting adventure book that I dearly loved to read when I was a boy. In fact, it was apparently part of an “Adventure Library for Boys and Girls Series.” It is almost on a par with Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry. But I never heard of Garram then. It seems as if being an old Newbery Honor Book, which Garram the Hunter was in 1931, is almost like a kiss of death. Old Newbery Medal winners get republished from time to time, but many of the honor books (runners-up) often pass into oblivion. In trying to find some of them, I’ve learned that the entire SHARE library system in Illinois doesn’t have a single copy. I’m glad that I located this one. I’ve been told that in a lot of modern libraries, it’s all NEW, NEW, NEW, and throw out the old. Too bad.
This book would make a good literary component to a unit study on slave-era Africa. The only complaint which I saw about the story is from a reviewer who wrote, “One thing I found very odd in this book is the lack of women. Garram takes place entirely in a man’s world. No women are mentioned at all in the city of Yelwa, nor are they among Garram’s peers in the hills.” That’s not entirely true. Women are mentioned though certainly not the focus of attention. But come on! It’s a boy’s adventure book. You don’t want to mess it up with a bunch of “girlie” stuff. I wholeheartedly agree with another reviewer who said, “This is a wonderful, fast-paced book that should not be out of print. It shows no signs of being dated.” It is a fairly easy read despite its length and contains both danger and humor. Herbert Best, the author, was born on March 25, 1894, at Chester, England, and died in July, 1980, at New York City, NY.