The tale follows these wide-eyed mischievous little munchkins all snuggled in bed around Mama who reads them four books before leaving too tired to read another despite their pleading.
Of course, they just have to read another; it looks so good and it is. But they make so much noise as the story captures their feelings that Mama appears.
"What's all this racket? This chaos? This din?"
Sheepishly they confess and Mama reminds them of what she said.
"Lights out! Sweet dreams! No more reading in bed!"
Now the lights are off but a flashlight goes on as a new book about a ghost is opened. Oooooo! it's so spooky that they scare themselves silly. Mama returns repeating her question and request.
Our five frightened siblings lying in bed with thoughts of sleep having left their heads find a joke book. They try ever so hard to be quiet but we all know how hard it is to stop laughing when you've got a case of the goofy giggles. Mama reappears with patience wearing thin stating those wonderful repetitious refrains.
Finally the five little monkeys are on their way to slumberland when the strangest noises come drifting down the hall. Quietly creeping, quietly peeping, an endearing surprise awaits all our characters. The closing sentence assures readers that this is a family nighttime ritual; a ritual that will last a lifetime. Endpapers at the back show our friends in various positions of repose nestled with their favorite toys, monkey dolls, a car and a book.
Eileen Christelow has her method of storytelling with rhyming text down to an art form. Nothing is forced but perfectly paced; words picked precisely. The technique of using that magic number three, three different books that has Mama come back to the five little monkeys' bedroom, is just right. Her illustrations rendered digitally in pen and ink with color are additively adorable. (Do follow the link above to her web site where she explains how her pictures are created.) All the visuals are two page spreads making these cavorting critters so full of life. One (I do have more than one) of my favorites is them lying in bed absolutely bug-eyed after reading that ghost book. The text echoes their looks; I've heard it hundreds of times---That story was so GOOD but so scary...
There's only one thing to do now...build a crackling fire in the fireplace, snuggle under a pile of blankets with Xena curled at my feet and read to her, Five Little Monkey reading in bed.
Turn off the lights, sweet dreams, grab a flashlight and do read in bed.