CM . . . .
Volume V Number 18 . . . . May 7, 1999
Once upon a time, when the world was new, there was every kind of monkey that you can imagine.Mischievous monkeys of all kinds are the main characters in these retellings of three well-known folktales from around the world. In the first story, "Caps for Sale," fifty monkeys steal a pedlar's colourful nightcaps while he naps under a tree. Every time the angry pedlar shakes his fist or stamps his foot to show his frustration, the monkeys mimic him. Finally, he outsmarts them by throwing down his cap. The monkeys throw theirs, too, allowing the pedlar to collect his wares and go on his way.
"Big Monkey's Banana Trouble" tells of an old woman's trick to punish a large monkey in her employ for keeping the biggest bananas from the garden for himself. She builds a huge wax statue of a banana pedlar and places a basket of big, ripe bananas on his head. When the monkey asks the wax statue for a banana and the statue does not reply, the monkey punches and kicks it, causing the monkey's hands and feet to stick in the wax. Hearing the monkey's howling and yowling, "millions and billions" of his primate friends come to his rescue. They climb on top of one another and, in unison, call to the sun for help. The sun beats down, melting the wax, thereby freeing the big monkey.
When a cat and a dog, in "Cat, Dog and Monkey", quarrel over a morsel of food, a monkey offers to help them solve their problem. He makes an elaborate balance scale out of twigs, twine and twisted vines in order to weigh the food carefully. But instead of dividing the food evenly, the monkey bites off tiny bits to balance the scales while the cat and the dog watch in frustration and growing hunger. As the monkey pops the last morsel into his mouth, the cat and dog realize, too late, that they have been duped.
Gugler's stories are retold in a fanciful and humorous manner. Her use of poetry in some parts and the richness and rhythm of the language contribute to readers' enjoyment of the tales. Text is simple, large and easy to read, with many words and direct quotations printed in boldface type for emphasis.
Van Kampen's watercolour illustrations, rendered in the bright colours of the tropical jungle-- green, fuschia, blue, yellow, purple, red-- are bold, striking and humorous, adding a playful touch to the text.
This offering will delight young readers who will likely laugh out loud as they read about the monkeys' funny antics. A perfect read-aloud trio.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School is East St. Paul, MB.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.