Fourteen Monkeys: A Rain Forest Rhyme by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534460393
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5+
What did you like about the book? This rollicking book manages to combine an exciting read aloud with solid informational text and Jenkins’ trademark gorgeous collage illustrations in one nifty package. Stewart’s nimble singsong rhymes appear in a large font and anchor each two-page illustration of one of the 14 monkeys found in the Manú National Park in Peru. Information about each primate, including how to pronounce its name and some fun facts, appear to the right of the rhyme. Part of the concept here is that all of these monkeys can thrive because each lives at a different level of the rain forest; thus, a clear graphic of an indigenous tree appears over and over again, with an orange ring indicating the specific animal’s niche. Jenkins captures his subjects in action; the monkeys leap, munch, climb, snuggle, and sleep in full color. The feathery edges of the paper are carefully manipulated to suggest monkey fuzz. Rich back matter includes a chance to rotate the book into a vertical orientation to view a giant tree with each monkey occupying its stratum. A map shows readers where to find Peru and the park, while a glossary presents organized information about each species: its scientific name, group size, diet, predators, young, lifespan and field notes. A size scale compares all the monkeys to one another and to a human and then the final page includes selected sources and suggestions for further reading.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No. This is really a model for how to do narrative nonfiction right!
To whom would you recommend this book? Perfect for all elementary age readers as there are so many levels on which to enjoy this book. A class studying monkeys, animals, adaptation, rain forests, or Peru could use this as an activator. As always with Jenkins, the book is also perfectly suited for an art teacher who wants to find examples of collage that may also line up with classroom science study.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction, 599.8098
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: August 5, 2021