Volume II Number 3
November 3, 1995

image Emily Carr's Woo.

Constance Horne. Illustrated by Lissa Calvert.
Lantzville, BC: Oolichan books, 1995. 72pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-88982-149-6.

Subject Headings:
Woo (Monkey)-Juvenile fiction.
Carr, Emily, 1871-1945-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 9 - 11.
Review by A. Edwardsson.


The old ladies were panting slightly when they stepped into Emily's studio. For a moment they stood sniffing the roast beef smell and smiling at one another. Alice took off her hat and hung it on a peg. "Where are the dogs?" she asked.
"In the yard," Emily answered. Alice raised her eyebrows in surprise. At least three griffons were usually present at her younger sister's parties. Lizzie looked sharply at the table.
"Where's the rat?" she asked.
"Shut up in the attic,' Emily said. "I know you don't like Suzie to be on the table at meals."
"Humph," said Lizzie. 'That never stopped you before.'

woo This tale of a mischievous pet monkey is aimed at a much older crowd than Rey's Curious George books. Author Constance Horne (Nikola and Granny) used information gleaned from artist Emily Carr's books, letters, and diaries to create these fictionalized stories. It is billed as the adventures of an intelligent monkey that "will entertain children while informing them about the life of one of Canada's most important artists."

However, there is very little actual information in this slim volume. Instead, the book focusses on the monkey's antics, and the most we learn about Emily is that she is loves animals and is a bit eccentric. For example, she takes her pets camping in a large caravan called "the Elephant."


Readers first meet Emily at age fifty-two when she acquires a two year-old Javanese monkey from a pet shop. When her sisters come for dinner and discover her new pet, they advise her to send it back. After they leave, she names it Woo after the mournful sound it makes. She cuddles Woo and tells her, "Don't worry little monk. I don't have to listen to my big sisters anymore. I'm fifty-two years old. I own a house and a business. I'm an artist and some people think I'm a good one. Who cares what Alice and Lizzie say? You're mine and I'm going to keep you."

Children may wish that they could have a monkey for a pet, and Woo's escapades might amuse them. But they might also ask why Emily puts dresses rather than a sweater on Woo when the creature is cold. Or they might wonder about the larger (more contemporary) question -- is it fair to keep a monkey as a pet? Unfortunately, the Briticisms and Emily's age will keep most readers at arms length.


It's just as well that we don't get too attached or involved. In the final chapter Emily Carr is "very ill" and moves to a smaller home:
Then Emily had another attack and went to the hospital for a long time. It was too long for the animals to be left alone. What to do with them? The dogs and birds found homes quickly, but nobody wanted a fifteen-year-old monkey. Emily's sister Lizzie had died. Alice was blind. Emily Carr decided that the best place for Woo was the monkey house at the zoo in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Younger readers may be concerned with the illness -- what's wrong and does she get better? When the pets are farmed out there's no good-bye scene -- a friend goes to the apartment and takes off Woo's dress, and shortly she and her cage are loaded into a big truck bound for the zoo. Thankfully, she's befriended on the last page by another monkey.

This book was published on the fiftieth anniversary of Carr's death. Each chapter is short with large clear text. Artist Lissa Calvert has added warmth and personality with her detailed black and white pencil illustrations. The cover portrait of "Woo" is by Emily Carr. This book unfortunately has limited appeal. It may be of interest to avid animal lovers, or elementary students enrolled in advanced art classes.

Optional purchase.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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