________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006


Up and Down. (Zen Tails).

Peter Whitfield. Illustrated by Nancy Bevington.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2005.
28 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-894965-22-1.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Lorraine Douglas.

** /4


Monkey had been bored for days. ‘I will ask Shri Shelly the tortoise to give me something to do,” he muttered, “and if she doesn’t give me anything to do I will bash her house down.”

Bashing Shri Shelly’s house down would be something to do.

Monkey ran over to Shri Shelly who was sitting alone on a hill overlooking a river. Shelly smiled and waved to Monkey as he approached.

“Hello Monkey, how are you today?” Shelly asked.

“I’m bored,”Monkey moaned. “Please Shelly, give me something to do.” Shelly shook her head slightly, as there was nothing that needed to be done.

Up and Down is from the series “Zen Tails” in which a moral from philosophical teachings is explained through a picture book story and a cast of animal characters. The characters are divided into “enlightened ones” who are the teachers; those “on the path” who are the students; and those who have “forgotten the way” and who are the fools. 

internal art

     In this story, it is easy to spot Monkey as a fool who is never satisfied with the way things are. He is constantly restless and mischievous. Shri Shelly, the tortoise, represents knowledge and is a font of wisdom dispensing valuable advice. She tells bored Monkey to get busy by running up and down a ladder for hours on end. When he is exhausted, he is able to think of a number of fun things to do to occupy his time the next day. 

     The bright animated illustrations and the anthropomorphic characters make the book appear to be a preschool picture book, but the content is more suitable for slightly older children. This story is amusing and clearly makes the point that, when you are bored or dissatisfied with life, you should stop and reflect for a moment as there are plenty of ways you can enjoy life.

     Parents who are interested in sharing these ideas with their children will find this a useful book, and it would be very suitable for an alternative bookstore.

Recommended with reservations.

Lorraine Douglas, a retired librarian who worked in children’s and youth services for over 25 years at the Winnipeg Public Library, now lives in Sidney, BC, and is an artist and writer.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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