The Farmer and the Monkey (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Farmer and the Monkey by Marla Frazee, a quirky little tale of a very odd couple told entirely in pictures.

A farmer returns home from a picnic, not noticing that he is being followed by a monkey. The little simian, jauntily clad in collar and fez, trails the farmer all the way to his isolated house, surprising the man at the window before being welcomed inside. Upon entering, however, his wild ways cause a ruckus including damaging a beloved keepsake (one that fans of this title’s previous installment, The Farmer and the Clown, will recognize). Angrily, the farmer orders the monkey out, and the animal has nowhere to go when snow begins to fall. Will the farmer find a way to forgive his unexpected visitor?

Soft and sweet. While a few finer plot points may be unclear to those who missed the first installment of the series, this simple tale of a chance encounter and caring for those in need (even when they can be difficult houseguests) is just as warm and engaging as a stand-alone. Frazee does a wonderful job of conveying mood, emotion, and even conversation without a single written word; her softly textured pencil artwork features beautifully shaded environments and whimsically charming characters. Without text, the length is up to the reader, and JJ had a lovely time describing the illustrations and telling her interpretation of the story. This was a beautiful tale, and made us very interested to read to other two books in the trilogy. We definitely recommend checking out this one out, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Good Night Little Monkey (L.B. Fogt)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Good Night Little Monkey, written and illustrated by L.B. Fogt with layout by Rhonda Ernst, a sweet bedtime rhyme for little bookworms.

The sun has set, the day is gone, and it’s time for little monkeys to head to bed. In this case, “monkey” is synonymous with baby, as a charming, colorful cut-paper-art monkey leads readers through black-and-white stock photos of babies, saying goodnight to “monkey toes”, “little monkey ears”.

Very cute. This indie title has a few of the rough edges one might expect from a self-published book, including some out-of-focus images and a slightly nebulous theme, but the sweet tone and adorable monkey character makes these easy to overlook. The rhyming text is particularly well-balanced, flowing evenly and using simple language that sets a perfectly soothing pre-bedtime tone. The monkey character is a clever way to keep the visuals flowing and connect them to the text, and a banana-counting mechanic on the odd pages adds to the fun. The length makes it fine for any age, though the visuals and theme will be most engaging for baby and toddler-aged bookworms. Still, JJ and I both enjoyed it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Fred Forgets (Jarvis)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is called Fred Forgets by Jarvis, the tale of a forgetful elephant and his mischievous monkey friend.

They say an elephant never forgets; unfortunately, Fred is not that elephant. No, he’s extremely forgetful, and so relies on his “friend” Monkey to help him remember what he was in the midst of doing. Unfortunately, Monkey is a bit of a prankster – actually, he’s kind of a bully. Monkey tells Fred to do increasingly embarrassing, painful, or dangerous things until at last, Fred remembers what he wanted to do in the first place: sit on Monkey and squish him.

Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. While the illustrations are fun, colorful and dynamic, the story was troubling. Monkey’s exploitation and manipulation of Fred’s memory problem is deeply uncomfortable; his “funny” pranks aren’t amusing, just mean, cruel, and occasionally life-threatening. And unlike Jarvis’s previous story, Alan’s Big Scary Teeth, the bully doesn’t come to understand the error of his ways. Instead, his comeuppance comes in the form of being sat upon – satisfying after all his antics, but hardly a positive lesson for little readers. And while the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the animals and the vibrant art, and the author does include a pleasantly cheeky final page showing that “no monkeys or elephants were harmed in the making of this book”, I’m not sure if this is one we can recommend. For us, despite its positives, the story simply missed the mark by too much.

Maxwell The Monkey Barber (Cale Atkinson)

Hello, friends! Today’s review is Maxwell The Monkey Barber by Cale Atkinson, a delightful story about a helpful hairstylist who keeps the beasts of the jungle neatly coiffed.

Every day, Maxwell the monkey barber opens his little shop, and the customers roll in right away. Up today: a baboon whose out-of-control hairdo has ensnared all manner of critters, large and small; a lion whose scraggly mane is in dire need of a makeover; and a bear whose burly beard is now brushing the ground. After Max fixes up each head of hair, he sends his customers off with a smile and an assurance that their hair is the best he’s seen that day. But at the end of one day, a sad elephant comes to call: he doesn’t have any hair, and his head gets quite cold. This might be Maxwell’s toughest challenge yet: how can he give the elephant the ‘do of his dreams without a single hair to work with?

Absolutely charming! Maxwell’s story is simply adorable: sweet, funny, cheerful, and with just the right amount of fluff. Maxwell’s solution of using his customers’ hair to create wigs for those who need them shows kindness and compassion, and is reminiscent of charities who do the same for cancer and burn patients, making this a great way to teach kids about donating hair. The illustrations are darling, using bright colors and wonderfully expressive characters to capture readers’ attention and imagination. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!