When feisty and impetuous Raven and her younger brother, the more reserved and middle-of-the-road Rudi, arrive in town to spend some time with their grandfather, it is anything but normal. Going off the deep end is what Raven is often about, and when this happens it spells trouble for Rudi. Not wanting to rock the boat, Rudi is nonetheless powerless to resist one of Raven’s Big Ideas, and they aren’t in town long when one starts to take control.

You see, Raven loves life, and she loves new experiences. She is not, though, particularly good at thinking her way through a thing before she jumps right in. And to make matters more complicated, she has brought along a rather large axe to grind. Raven hasn’t been getting along with her father for a while. They’ve had some words, and even more silences, and Raven has brought along the frustrations, the worries, the anger, and the confusion with her. Rudi doesn’t really know what her mood swings have been about lately, and while he comes across as outgoing and confident – at least on the surface – he is often a bundle of nerves and Raven’s angst (as he sees it) isn’t helping.

But there is no time, not yet, for Rudi to try figuring Raven out, and for Raven to start figuring her relationship with her father out, because no sooner have they arrived in town when they are thrust into the whirlwind of activity that is the town’s annual Harvest Festival. Assigned work around town, the children meet a host of interesting and colourful characters. They meet Big Bob Parkinson, the local engineer and owner of the only workshop worth its salt in town. If something moves and it shouldn’t, or shouldn’t move but does, Big Bob is the guy who gets called in. They meet Mrs. Mavis Marston, larger-than-life antique dealer and owner of The Little Shop of Ways and Means. They find themselves spending time with Mr. Jim Foggerton, and Mayor and Postmaster, affectionately known as Old Foggy due to this terrible memory.

And they meet the new man in town. Older, reserved, upright and commanding, with a strange and unfamiliar uniform. Raven, in the throes of a Big Idea, is convinced that the man must be a spy. Rudi points out the obvious: he is likely too old for that and equally unlikely to be flaunting his spy status around town but Raven, perhaps feeling that she has something to prove, is gripped. Are they going to look into this? What could possibly go wrong?

Cape Town-based author, Adrian Partridge, brings to life these wonderful characters in the first book of his Rudi and Raven series, The Organ Grinder’s Monkey. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes tragic and sometimes worth raising an eyebrow over, it remains real. It is about real people going through real things. It is about you.

As one reader commented: “I loved the story and each and every character! I went right into the town and felt I was enjoying the adventures with them. Can’t wait for the next one!”

Or, as another reader said: “You had me in tears. I refuse to read any more of your books. When’s the next one?”

So, as Rudi and Raven tackle situations and events, moments and people, they are forced to peel back the layers of who they are, to clean off the paint left on them by circumstances and expectations and perhaps – just perhaps – they can find out who they are, not as the world sees them, but as they are meant to be.

And Raven, in the process of needing to prove a point to everyone, may yet find that the biggest point she has to prove is to herself.