This book picks up pretty much shortly after the end of the last one. Tom's uncle's native ward, Manolo, was kidnapped by his tribesman in order to force a marriage between Manolo and the chief's daughter. Tom and his uncle must once again brave the jungles of Brazil to locate Manolo, since the Tapintin tribe had moved their camp due to the giant ants that Tom and his uncle released on the old camp. While searching for the Tapintin camp, however, the adventurers are captured by the rival tribe of Pomora Indians. Tom's uncle sees an opportunity to try and "civilize" this tribe, but does not get very far before the war between the tribes begins to escalate, and Tom and his uncle are caught right smack in the middle. As with Tom Stetson and the Giant Jungle Ants, there is plenty of action and narrow escapes, but the two do manage to find Manolo and rescue him.
The author, John Henry Cutler, again shows his knowledge of the Brazilian fauna and wildlife, with the first chapter literally filled with vivid descriptions of trees, flowers, and plant-life, as well as various animals and fish native to the jungles. He bestows this same knowledge on Leo Jason (Tom's uncle), who points out a number of life-saving things that can be found in the forest - such as the bamboo stalks that collect rain water or the cow trees that produce a drinkable milky sap. He also explains the various ways the various tribes have learned to communicate with one another without the use of modern technology, using vines and other natural items within the jungles. There is a lot of rich, vivid descriptions throughout the story, which easily draw the reader in and put you right there with Tom and his uncle.
I would certainly be amiss if I did not mention Ursula Koering's art throughout the book. There are sixteen full-page illustrations throughout the 22 chapters. Koering helps bring the jungle to life, whether it be the two-page endpapers spread, or the individual illustrations depicting the tribe fishing or Tom and his uncle crossing the jungle via vines from one tree to the next. I'll readily admit, as a kid, I always enjoyed the illustrations in the children's mystery series I read, so when they did away with them, I was very disappointed. It's a treat to go back now and read these older series and see the various illustrators and how they helped bring the stories to life for the readers.
As with the first book (and the next, as well), the dust jacket features a wrap around painted scene, this time with Tom slicing his way through the thick jungle vegetation, a fire burning fiercely behind him. The book ends with Tom, his uncle, and Manolo safely aboard Mr. Jason's boat, heading for the famed city of Manoas.
RATING: 8 vine-swinging spider monkeys out of 10 for keeping the action going strong from beginning to end - never a dull moment in this book!