Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's Pure Monkey Business!

I am like iron shavings to a magnet when it comes to any book that promotes libraries, books or reading.  With the latest title in her Five Little Monkeys series, Five Little Monkeys reading in bed,  Eileen Christelow has a surefire crowd-pleaser destined to be a bedtime favorite.  I can already hear voices clamoring, "Read it again, read it again."

All day long wherever they go, bathroom, yard, swing, comfy chair or at the kitchen table, these five monkeys have a book in hand actively engrossed in the narration and illustrations, facial and verbal expressions revealing emotions caught up in the story.  How do I know?  The endpapers cleverly shout it out loud.  It continues on the title and publication double page spread showing them finishing their baths, pj attired and brushing their teeth crowded around reading a book.

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.

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