Our edition: Macmillan Children's Books, 2010.
Click on the cover to listen to the way we read Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett.
Click here to listen to how we sometimes read it like a counting book:
Monkey and Me is a brilliantly simple and unannounced chanted game of charades. I think this would be great fun from around six months to ages 3-4. We got it for our son when he was about one year old.
A girl and her stuffed monkey tell us about their exciting day out at the zoo by jumping up and down and posing as all the different animals they have seen for us to guess what they are. They waddle about with their feet sticking out like penguins, the girl jumps with the monkey tucked in her t-shirt like a kangaroo, they hang upside down like bats, the girl bends over and uses an arm for an elephant's trunk and they both jump and hang from things like -real- monkeys. Each picture charade has a catchy repetitive chant to go with it:
"Monkey and me
Monkey and me
Monkey and me
We went to see
We went to see some...
(Penguins/ Kangaroos/ Bats/ Elephants/ Monkeys)"
At the end, exhausted by all the excitement, the girl and her toy monkey go home for tea and fall asleep (the toy monkey too).
Monkey and Me's illustrations are brimming with movement and energy and, combined with the catchy chanting, are contagious for readers and listeners.
In her pencil and watercolour illustrations on a white background, Emily Gravett uses colour sparingly and effectively (red for the girl's t-shirt and tights, grey-brown for the toy monkey and shades of brown and grey for the different animals).
The illustrations are full of plenty of little details for toddlers to notice over time. We love the stuffed monkey's facial expression, inexpressive all the way through until they start imitating the monkeys, when it turns into a broad smile, and stays that way until the end. (We love the idea of a stuffed monkey going to see real monkeys!).
In the last scene, the girl and stuffed monkey have fallen asleep at the dinner table. On the table lies a plate with a couple of chips left over, a small yoghurt pot, an uneaten open banana, a drawing of their day with the couple of pencils -red and grey, like most of the book-, they have used to draw it. A nicely subtle layer of sophistication is added by having a real monkey creep into the scene, perhaps to take the banana, while the girl and the stuffed monkey sleep.
I personally love the girl's sagging tights.
Here are some of the illustrations from Monkey and Me:
And a close-up of the end scene (unfortunately, I cannot find the full scene online):
Reading it out loud
Monkey and Me is a great read aloud story and game.
Young babies will appreciate the repetitive chanting. Young toddlers will enjoy recognising the animals and eventually crying out their names with each page turn. We also use it as a sort of counting book. My son thinks it's very funny when we count all 26 bats very quickly. He also seems to be about to start imitating the girl and her stuffed monkey and their animal poses.
It has a nice excitement curve, quietening down at the end, when it manages to convey that satisfied tiredness of a kid after spending a whole day out and about.
My son loves the big red fish in the beak of one of the penguins and has recently taken to imploring mercy: 'Don't eat!"
He also loves the picture of the girl and her monkey hanging upside down like bats. He likes pointing to her belly -"BELLY BUTTON!"- and saying "UPSIDE DOWN!" and turning the book upside down to see their faces properly.
Monkey and Me offers lots of opportunity for joining in, dancing to the song and playing.
Plenty, plenty of fun!
It's nice of Emily Gravett to give us a girl with more thrill than frill in this return of the pink princess era.
Emily Gravett has a superb website, wonderfully designed, fun and informative. It includes videos of the way she works. Take a look at http://www.emilygravett.com/.
(c) of all the illustrations in this post, Emily Gravett, 2007.