Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, February 24, 2018

No Case Is Too Big

There are those individuals wired to analyze any given situation.  If presented with a problem, they seek a solution.  They are well-read in their particular field of interest.  They are not surprisingly exceptional in their endeavors.

A new character sure to be highly liked if not downright loved is to be introduced to readers on February 27, 2018.  He seeks.  He reads.  He is gifted.  Baby Monkey, Private Eye (Scholastic Press) story by Brian Selznick and David Serlin with pictures by Brian Selznick is a delightful blend of mystery, humor and the unexpected.


Obviously he's a baby and a monkey but what you don't know is this baby monkey has a job.  He's one of the most adorable private eyes in the business.  Presented with a series of cases, you will also come to realize his cleverness.

In the first scene Baby Monkey is cozily leaning against a cushion on the sofa in his office.  A typewriter is on the table in front of the sofa.  A variety of pictures on the visible walls and a bust of a famous person on his desk relate to the person about to open his door.  Baby Monkey is reading Famous Jewel Crimes.  

An opera star dressed in full costume bursts into Baby Monkey's office proclaiming the theft of her jewels.  Baby Monkey is confident in his ability.  He gathers and notes pertinent information.  He takes a moment to fuel his body with food (baby carrots).  He struggles to put on his pants.  After several attempts, he is ready to crack this case.  And he does!  His victory is complete when the case gets headlines in the Monkey Times.  

This first notable triumph is repeated in three more case.  Major components of Baby Monkey's investigative routine remain in place but the victims, the thefts and the criminals (plus Baby Monkey's snacks and office decor) are wildly and widely varied.  There's a huge difference between the stolen items of a chef, a clown and an astronaut. Readers can also see the toll these busy endeavors are taking on Baby Monkey. He's exhausted.

With the arrival of the next client, our precious primate can barely keep his eyes open.  His procedure is abandoned in favor of immediate knowledge of the superbly satisfying conclusion to this fifth case.

Hooray for Baby Monkey!

With a stroke of genius authors Brian Selznick and David Serlin start this book designed for early readers with a single, shouted word.  When we are told to wait, isn't our greatest desire to do the opposite?  Readers (of all ages) will be willing participants in this story as soon as they see the established pattern of the narrative.

Key phrases are constant in the cases until Baby Monkey's fatigue is evident.  His quiet exclamations as he consumes his munchies and when he tries to put his pants on shift somewhat to assist in pacing and elevate the comedy.  This anticipated tempo provides the perfect platform for the big reveal. Here is the continuation of the introduction before the first case.

He is
a baby.
He is
a monkey.
He has
a job . . .

To tell you the truth, I can hardly wait to hold a completed copy, other than an uncorrected proof shared by a colleague, this coming Tuesday. The entire book, more than 190 pages, is nearly all wordless black and white images created by Brian Selznick.  The red used in the title text on the front of the dust jacket is sparely used at the end of each chapter.  When the simple text is displayed, it is done so in a large font on pristine white.  To view the book case here is a link to a tweet by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.

The drawings, artwork, of Brian Selznick will literally take your breath away.  The details in Baby Monkey will have you reaching out to touch the page.  The perspectives used in portraying the youngster shift with excellence as the cases unfold.  The series of single page portraits for each case of him striving to put on a pair of pants are merry mirth inducing.

What all readers will find intriguing is the decor in Baby Monkey's office.  With each case it changes prompting us to do a bit of research prior to the door opening to disclose the next client.  If we simply can't take the time to do it then, we will be compelled to do so after the book is completed.

One of my favorite of nearly all of these illustrations is one of the single-page pictures when he is first trying to put on his pants.  We are given an indication of his size as he sits on a book on its side.  Baby Monkey is facing the gutter from an illustration on the right.  His left leg is in the right pant leg.  He is holding the left pant leg in his hands trying to figure out what to do next.  His face, wide-eyed as usual, is scrunched in perplexity.

One copy of Baby Monkey, Private Eye written by Brian Selznick and David Serlin with pictures by Brian Selznick for your professional and private collections will not be enough.  You are going to need multiple copies.  This book will be highly read repeatedly and shared extensively among the intended audience as well as anyone fortunate to read it.  At the close of the book are smaller illustrations of Baby Monkey's office with information about the decor.  There is also an index and a bibliography which you need to read with careful reflection and an urge to laugh.

If you wish to know about the creators of this book and the book, you can visit the publisher's website here or a special website for the book here.  Both places are loaded with images, information, activities and the book trailer.  Brian Selznick is featured in a Publishers Weekly article which concludes with a discussion about this book.  Brian Selznick and David Serlin are interviewed at Shelf Awareness about this title.  Just a few days ago Brian Selznick is showcased in an article in The New York Times.  There is a The New York Times  live video of his studio, his drawing and this book.

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