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Category Archives: Monkeys

My daughter loves monkeys and there are lots of monkeys in the books we read. Watch out for Monday Monkey posts. I have to space them out so you don’t feel like I am attacking you with monkeys, I know all too well how that feels.

My child may be psychic

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So this post may be along the lines of “things one shouldn’t admit aloud, let alone write for the whole world to see.” Sometimes I think my daughter can read my mind. We’ll be walking along and she asks me about someone I was just randomly thinking about, even though we weren’t walking by anything connected to the person. She’ll ask me about something I am thinking to myself that I do not understand how she could guess or know that I was thinking. Anyway, she has also (a more commercial, less unnerving, more annoying personality trait) figured out that representations of stuff represents stuff that can be acquired. She’ll point to a picture of a toy or book and tell me she wants it. So far I have had a few answers: “Great” (hoping she’ll forget about it). “Why don’t you tell your aunt?” (Hoping my sisters will just find this cute and not materialistically horribly spoiled AND hoping my daughter will forget about it by the time she sees them). “Why don’t you tell your grandma?” (hoping my daughter will forget by the time she sees her and because I am kind of interested to see what my mom would do, this would not have worked for me as a kid at all, but grandchildren are different). “Okay, maybe for your birthday” (Which is in about a year). I have also made a few exceptions and gotten her some things, all of them monkey books. Three of them are Five Little Monkey books she mentioned wanting (already discussed this, frankly I wanted them as well) and the other is Curious George Goes to a Costume Party. She, for some strange reason, repeatedly pointed to this Curious George book (pictured on the back of one of her other Curious George books). Over and over again. I got it for her and discovered it involved Curious George (one of her top ten favorite monkeys) JUMPING ON A BED (one of her favorite things monkeys do). How did she know this book would have this in it? How did she choose this particular book? Answers: she somehow read it somewhere else (but her school tells us the books they read) and knew it, it is a coincidence, the cover of this Curious George is particularly interesting (below, would this be the one you would choose?) or she is psychic.

Sneezing monkeys

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Speaking of google searches, do NOT look up “do monkeys sneeze.” You’ll turn up one sexually strange link and one weird picture. Fine, I’ll share the picture (from bbc news). Sometimes my daughter and I pretend to take each other’s noses. Myanmar monkeys could not play this game (that or they did, and played it too well). Sneezing monkeys get into a lot of trouble in books; sneezes cause monkeys to make a mess and almost wake up Mama when they are making cakes and to disrupt their monkey bridges (with a wet lion as a result, who knows what happens next! It may be far worse than messed up cake). If I only acquired monkey knowledge from my daughter’s books I would think crocodiles and sneezes were the two biggest dangers facing monkeys.

Image from The Monkey Bridge (story by Joy Cowley, illustrations by Susan Moxley)

More five little monkeys, some answers, and more questions

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We went on a couple-hour drive last weekend and discovered we need to own all of Eileen Christelow‘s Five Little Monkey books for our cross-country trip (or else I would have to read the same three books over and over and over and over again). Or, if not all, at least more. So we purchased three more and I have discovered a few things.

Regarding last Monday’s post: Mama goes dancing by herself; is that a date in her car (above)? Picture from Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Go Seek. Also, here are the photos she has up in her house (From Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do). Is that her in the wedding photo? What do you think? I am torn between the joys of imagining what her situation is and really, really wanting to actually know. Story of my life.

For a long time my daughter has been recounting the story of the alligators/crocodiles and the monkeys. I couldn’t wait to figure out exactly what she was talking about (there are a couple of versions) and it turns out it was from reading Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree at school. The first time I read the book, I got worried that the crocodile was in fact eating the monkeys, something that would explain my daughter’s intense crocodile hatred. Crocodiles are also a large, evil presence in Five Little Monkeys Wash a Cartoo (see below). My daughter often yells at them “GO AWAY GO AWAY!” as we read. My daughter’s father and I have been wondering, are they really monkeys’ enemies? By, “really” I mean in nature. Do monkeys often get snapped out of trees? Do crocodiles or alligators eat monkeys? Oh! Question partially answered (from the author’s page):

When I started working on this book, I was saying the rhyme with “. . . teasing Mr Alligator . . .” But then I did a little homework and found that alligators and monkeys don’t live in the same places. However, some monkeys and some crocodiles do.

When we were at Five Little Monkeys (the store, not the book, confused yet?) we saw a crocodile Folkmanis puppet and were enticed. We know our drive will involve a lot of monkeys and it seemed like it might be a fun way to act out some of the many scenes of crocodiles and monkeys we’ll be reading. Okay, and to be honest, with all the monkeys in our life, we probably kind of liked the idea of pretending to eat the monkeys (after a certain number of readings one is almost rooting for the crocodiles, unless one is my daughter). We showed it to my daughter, smiling, “Should we get this? Isn’t this nice?” and, unfortunately, she started screaming, “NO, no that’s TOO scary!” Since we can’t justify getting a toy just for ourselves, we left it. My daughter is fiercely loyal: her friends’ enemies are her enemies and she is not going to make friends with a crocodile. Perhaps we haven’t read Lyle Lyle Crocodile enough; maybe if I try reading that over and over again we’ll be able to convince my daughter she needs a crocodile puppet. At least two members of this family would really like that. 

Wake Up, Mom!

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In Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake, the monkeys hammer, saw, burn things in the oven, throw food on the floor, fall, let strange men come into the house, and cause a fire truck (with the sirens going EEEEEEEEEEE) to arrive. The book used to be called Don’t Wake Up Mama and, honestly, I am not sure what could wake up Mama! She wears earmuffs on her ears that appear to be super noise and worry blockers. They are amazing (are these legal? I may want some, but I am not sure I could block out worry). Then there is another book my daughter loves, Joy Cowley’s Wake Up, Mom! which is basically the opposite of Don’t Wake Up Mama. I cannot pretend I have any idea about how hard it must be to work on a farm (a small or large one). I do know that I understand waking up and feeling like there are all these needy things around that need to be taken care of (be they sheep, children, papers, dirt on the floor, articles, or other things). I have read this book so many times I can read it on autopilot and here is what my brain is saying to me as I read it. (Side note, there are so many kids in children’s books named Henry and Harry, why?)

We can all be monkeys, mice, dogs, etc.

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When reading Maus one of my students (who was not from the West and was not “white”*) mentioned that having the characters represented as mice made them easier to relate to, since she just assumed the mice looked like her, whereas had they been drawn like white Westerners there would have been a stronger sense of estrangement (something I had not considered in terms of Art Spiegelman’s work before). I thought of this again when looking up something about Groovy Girls (my daughter loves them) and found a thread on Berkeley Parents Network about getting dolls that don’t look white. Even if you vary your dolls’ complexions or read books that represent different kind of human families, they have to look like something, but there are tons and tons of books that have animals and tons of kids play with stuffed animals (rather than dolls), opening up more imaginative possibilities. Some books leave open more possibilities than others. The Five Little Monkey books seem to be a large family of monkeys (five siblings, they sleep in one bed — sometimes and sometimes bunk beds—  and sometimes they jump on the big bed) with just a mom; whether or not it is a single mom, a divorced mom, a widowed mom, a mom whose wife is away, a mom whose husband is away, is not clear to me from the books themselves. It’s pretty nice that the monkeys could represent such a range of backgrounds (totally nondescript monkey family). In the final scene of Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake (formerly Don’t Wake Up Mama, more on that later) the Mom appears to maybe be flirting with the firefighter, but she could also just be happy about the cake (if she is flirting, is it just friendly? questioning her sexual identity? unfaithful? exploring her new options?). Given the Mama’s situation, I got curious enough about the author’s background (Eileen Christelow) that I looked it up, thinking I would do a quick, always problematic biographical reading of the monkeys’ situation. Luckily it didn’t really change my mind that the situation is very open to interpretation. Another parental figure may show up in one of the other books, we haven’t read all of them yet but we are going to soon (we’ve read four of them over and over and over again). My daughter has Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake memorized and as cute as I find it when she says “Don’t spill the oil!” in the process of reciting the book, I need a little more variety in my life.

*All these terms are so problematic/meaningless/too meaningful.

See the Monkeys Reading in Bed

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I mentioned that we discovered Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys books not too long ago. My daughter predictably LOVES them. She now has four of them memorized. I am not ecstatic about the fact that I knowingly accepted another copy of little monkeys jumping on the bed into our household, but I really should not complain. (I once mentioned being tired to my officemate because my daughter had kept me up all night. He shared the Italian proverb, “Hai voluto la bicicletta? Pedala!” Which means — you wanted a bike? Pedal! Similar to “you made your bed; now sleep in it.”). The Five Little Monkeys book about reading rhymes, which is always fun/slightly maddening after a while, and is so far my favorite. In it a mother is trying to get her children to go to sleep. They won’t because they keep reading (and enjoying reading). Then finally she confiscates their books and READS them to herself, keeping herself up. I completely understand this, not because I read my daughter’s books to myself after she’s gone to sleep, but because I sometimes do not follow my advice to her, like “get sleep.” She’ll finally be asleep and I’ll take the time to read, do nothing, but not go to sleep when I should. This is better when my daughter’s father is around and I am forced to be slightly more normal.

Why so few monkeys, Richard Scarry?

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I cannot believe I have not discussed Richard Scarry’s books before. According to Wikipedia* he published over 300 books (and is from Boston, where both of my daughter’s parents are vaguely from). One reason he may be somewhat less read in this household is the relative lack of monkeys. He depicts tons of animals, but monkeys make rare appearances. They are featured in the movement/tail section (image from Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever). “Monkeys have tails, apes do not” is a fact my daughter picked up at the zoo and repeated to me a day later, completely amazing and terrifying me with her knowledge. I had hardly remembered that fact myself, but I am not monkey obsessed. Scarry’s books are children classics and often utterly bizarre. Some of the bizarreness is on purpose (I believe) and is playful. (See primate in banana car wearing three watches, explanation please.) Some of it is a result of being from a different time period, more to follow.

We checked out Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? because of the ideal bookshelf from last week (my daughter has really enjoyed it). I think it was designed to try to really answer, in occasionally excruciating detail (and we have the abridged version), the “why” questions of kids (commented on, with explicit language and with humour, by Louis C. K.). It only answers questions about people who really do things; there is no depiction of someone sitting around reading all day, so I guess I am on my own when it comes to explaining my profession. My daughter hasn’t gotten to the fun sounding “why” stage yet, but she does ask me constantly where people are like “Where did _____ go?” _________ could be a dog, a new friend she just made, a family member, a friend of mine, a friend she hasn’t seen for a while, etc. She will get randomly upset at my answers. For a while she didn’t like that two people lived together. I am unsure why, since she was okay with the fact that they both lived in L.A., has only seen them together, refers to them as a couple, and really likes them both. Sometimes she gets mad that my sister’s dog is in Boston (but it is okay that my sister is there and she likes that the dog lives with my sister). Sometimes she wants more details and I have to make stuff up, because I am not sure what people are actually doing at that moment. Just so my friends and family know, you all spend a lot of time sleeping (my daughter frequently asks where people are when it is bed time; I always tell her they are sleeping. Hey, they could be, who knows). With the help of the Richard Scarry books, like What Do People Do All Day?, I look forward to answering questions like “What did loggers do in the 1950s?” and “How exactly did the postal system work in some abstract country over forty years ago?” I mean, these questions are coming, right? The whys will lead here. To make up for the lack of Scarry so far, it is going to be a week of Scarry and I think a week of What Do People Do All Day?. Don’t ask me why.

*In my non-blog life I do actual research, which involves books, articles, etc. and goes beyond Wikipedia and the OED. Sorry for the sad lack of sources.