Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oh Those Amazing Animals

Fashioned from two socks and stuffed with stockings, my sock monkey acted as comforter and confidant. She was a constant companion until she was little more than pieces held together by threads.  Hand stitched, her facial features were unique.  The eyes and smile were filled with compassion.

In the natural world, her fellows are widely and wildly different.  Mad About Monkeys (Flying Eye Books, August 11, 2015) written and illustrated by Owen Davey is a collection of captivating information about the monkey population on our planet.  By the time you read the final word, your appreciation for these remarkable creatures will indeed grow.

Monkeys belong to a group of mammals known as primates.  Humans are also primates but humans are not monkeys.  However, monkeys and humans aren't all that different.  

Monkeys (and other animals) are called quadrupeds because they walk on all fours for most of the time.  Their diet can vary from seeds to small animals depending on the species.  If they choose to live in trees they are known as arboreal.  It's interesting to note monkeys are not grouped with chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, tarsiers or lorises and lemurs.

Did you know there is a distinction between Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys?  Physical characteristics and geographical location separate the two families.  The smallest monkey in the world, fully grown, is no larger than the palm of an adult's hand.  The largest monkey in the world, though shy, is fierce with large canine teeth sometimes two inches in length.

Monkeys have learned the benefits and challenges with living in a community.  They can communicate in a singular language, supply security or engage in loud skirmishes for leadership.  In specific instances they adapt well to their surroundings.  In the search for grass and due to climate change the Gelada male monkeys grow fur long enough to be called a cape.

Three miles away a certain monkey howl is heard.  Did you know monkeys grow beards?  Can you imagine having a nose so long it hangs over your mouth?  Who knew there are monkeys that can swim; feasting on crabs which they locate under water?  Monkeys are sneaky when necessary or simply because of curiosity.

As part of cultural mythologies and religions, monkeys have a place in the human world.  Their habitat, like many other creatures, is threatened.  They are essential to the ecological community as a whole; therefore it is essential we offer them protection.  We can do this.

When Owen Davey writes nonfiction you enter the world he creates with his words.  In his fifteen chapters he selects information readers will find the most fascinating.  His narrative is inclusive but conversational ranging from general to specific facts.  He makes comparisons understandable to all readers.  All of the featured monkeys are designated as Old World or New World in their labels.  Here is another sample passage.

Red and blue coloured noses and multi-coloured bottoms make mandrills one of the most attractive and beautiful primates.

'But why such colourful bums?' I hear you ask.  Scientists believe that these magnificent rumps are simply used as beacons in the leafy gloom of the forests.  When following each other through the forest, the bright rear ends are easy to spot and follow.

When you hold a copy of this book in your hands, the first thing you notice other than the remarkable collage on the front book case, is the texture, feeling like cloth.  The title text in red is raised.  On the back, to the left, Owen Davey has used a portion of an interior image placing it in a darker setting.  The matching opening and closing endpapers facing the title page in the beginning and the publication information at the end, showcase eleven different monkeys.  The table of contents is positioned within a double-page picture of a monkey in tree branches.

All of the images in this work vary in size in direct relation to the text.  This is an astounding example of beautiful design and layout. The illustrations are geometric works of art with details necessary to portray a specific monkey, a habitat, or food.  The heavier matte-finished paper works well with the selected color palette.

One of my favorite illustrations is a single page showcasing the Pygmy Marmoset, New World, Monkey, South America.  Davey has the monkey grasping a tree with lemons growing on the side.  It allows the reader to see the actual size in comparison to something familiar.  He also has the tail hanging down so we can see its length which is usually longer than the monkey's body.

If you are looking for a marvelous non-fiction read aloud picture book, Mad About Monkeys written and illustrated by Owen Davey is highly recommended.  (Please note that Owen Davey has recently released a companion title Smart About Sharks, August 9, 2016.)  The relaxed, friendly text with his distinctive images will appeal to a wide range of readers.  Davey's final chapter Deforestation includes ways we affect forests and how we can change this effect.  There is an index for the more than forty monkeys highlighted in this book.

To learn more about Owen Davey and his other work, please follow the link to his website attached to his name.  He includes many images from this book at this site.  Owen Davey wrote a guest post about this book at The Federation of Children's Book Groups.  Owen Davey is interviewed at Pushing Pixels.  You can discover more about monkeys at ARKIVE.  

Each week by participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge I learn more than I ever imagined I would.  I am most thankful to educator Alyson Beecher for hosting this challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy each Wednesday.  Be sure to visit the site and view the titles chosen by other bloggers.


  1. Oh wow, those illustrations!! Talk about a stunning picture book. Flying Eye Books is just so impressive, they're so willing to take chances and publish strange and wonderful picture books. So intrigued by this one!

    1. The illustrations are truly fabulous Jane. I am looking forward to his newest title. His choice of what facts to include is wonderful.

  2. I've been interested in this series of books. Flying Eye Books always publish beautiful fascinating books!

    1. I hope you are able to get a copy of both this title and his new one about sharks.

  3. I read this a few months ago. I love the illustrations and it's chock full of such great monkey info. I can't wait to read his Smart About Sharks--on request :)

    1. I just got the Smart About Sharks book. I am waiting to read it. It's like waiting to open a present.