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Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon
Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon
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Reviewed Titles Award Winners Print Book Supported by Capstone Interactive Accelerated Reader
Capstone Editions

Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon

by KT Johnston
Illustrated by César Samaniego

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 monkey on the job, Jack and Jim had to work together to convince everyone that they made a great team. This inspiring true story celebrates the history of service animals and a devoted friendship.

Reading LevelGrades 3-5
Interest LevelGrades 3-5
Lexile Level700L
ATOS Level4
AR Points0.5
AR Quiz #507068
Text TypeNarrative Nonfiction
PublisherCapstone Editions
BrandCapstone Editions
Page Dimensions9" x 11"
Page Count40
School/Library Price

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Kevin Kling, author, playwright, and coommentator for National Public Radio's - All Things Considered

"It's 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 coommentator for National Public Radio's

September 1, 2019

School Library Journal - Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

"Both the art and the narrative steer clear of any anthropomorphization of Jack. Back matter includes photos of Jack and Wide at work, an author’s note, information on primates, the history of service animals, discussion questions, and a glossary. . . .The book successfully shows people’s relationships with service animals and offers a positive portrayal of disability. . . .A good conversation starter that will need some unpacking." - School Library Journal

January 1, 2020


Booklist - John Peters

"In the annals of service animals, there can be but few to equal Jack, a chacma baboon who operated switches, fetched keys, and performed other complex tasks at South Africa’s Uitenhage train station in the 1880s for Jim, a station attendant who had lost both legs in an accident. . . .Though the story itself is a sunny one, portraying a loving two-way relationship, the discussion questions add necessary balance by bringing up issues of exploitation, keeping wild animals in captivity, and the perils of anthropomorphism." - Booklist

November 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews

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

December 1, 2019


Owlcation, The 18 Best New Narrative Nonfiction Books for Grades 3-6 - Adele Jeunette

"The children you interact with are probably familiar with the idea of a service dog, but have they ever heard of a service baboon? Railway Jack is about a baboon that learned to help a disabled railway worker, but more than that it’s a touching story of a resilient, persistent, and creative man and a loyal and clever primate companion." - Owlcation, The 18 Best New Narrative Nonfiction Books for Grades 3-6

April 25, 2020


Children's Book Committee, Bank Street College of Education

2021 Best Children’s Books of the Year

September 1, 2021

South Carolina Association of School Librarians

2022-2023 South Carolina Book Award Nominee

February 1, 2022

Washington Library Association

2022 Towner Book Award Nominee

May 1, 2021

KT Johnston

KT Johnston

KT Johnston writes historical narrative nonfiction. Her debut picture book, Railway Jack, is an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Nonfiction for Kids. KT has a degree in biology and conducted animal behavior studies before settling into a corporate career as an analyst. She and her husband are the parents of two grown children and live in Minneapolis. KT hopes to inspire others to be curious about our world, one true story at a time.

This author is available for virtual visits and conference panels.

Her presentation, “The True Story Behind the True Story,” highlights her research methods. Topics include the treasure hunt for primary sources; considering the reliability of information; turning facts into narrative; and keeping the truth truthful. A 30-45 minute presentation is followed by about 15 minutes of Q&A.

This opportunity is for groups who have read one of her books and is best suited for grades 4 and up, based on having had some introduction to research concepts, spreadsheets, and computer file management (i.e., Explorer or Finder).

Contact KT through her website for rates. (It is possible for subject matter to be tailored, subject to author’s availability.)

Go to the Author’s Page →