Thursday, November 12, 2009

REVIEW: The Laceyville Monkeys: Say the right words

Ruderman, H.  (2008).  The Laceyville Monkeys:  Say the right words.  West Palm Beach, FL:  Illusion Press.


PLOT SUMMARY:  The Laceyville monkeys have come into town for the annual talent show.  Their Granny is so intent on having them win, she uses the wrong words in her attempts to get them to perform.

At first I was a little reluctant to read this book.  In general, I'm not a big fan of books that are didactic or hit kids over the heads with morals.  Since Laceyville Monkey includes "SAY THE RIGHT WORDS!" right there in the sub-heading, I was a little worried that this wouldn't be my type of book.  Instead of "please" and "thank you" being the right words, as they usually are, this book speaks more to the need to encourage one another and think positively.

Structured in the form of rhyming poetry, a few of the rhymes are a little forced. For example, there's this stanza:

"With monkeys on stage
Granny boasted and bragged
how this little group
The Contest would bag."

This could be a little difficult for some readers to follow, especially if they hear this book as a read aloud.  The poetry was also a little difficult to deal with since different pages had a different number of stanzas on each.  Some pages only had one.  Others had four, which could be intimidating when a young reader isn't used to a full page of text yet.

It's also worth noting that an adult figure, Ms. Hepzibah, is the one to save the day when she speaks words of encouragement to the monkeys.  I think I would have liked it a little more if the story were positioned more closely with the experience of the three monkeys who were being pressured to perform by their Granny, but still found enjoyment without the intervention of an adult.  Does that make sense?  Sometimes these thoughts of mine are hard to express.

The illustrations are bright and colorful.  The monkeys are cute and human looking.  For better or worse (or for the indifferent), the female monkey, Eva, meets traditional gender expectations with curly eye lashes and pink bows on her ballerina costume.


The Laceyville Monkeys would be good to share with young athletes and competitors since it focuses on encouragement.  A teacher could ask young readers about what they think some "right words" are and why it's important to use them.

Since the story features a talent show, a teacher could organize students to showcase their own talents or to do their own skits in response.


"Three little monkeys
came to Laceyville Town
in just the right month
for a night that's renown.

The Big Talent Contest
was coming up soon.
All animals performed
on the eve of full moon."

"She prodded and coaxed
she pleased and begged,
but the monkeys stood silent
for the wrong words were said."

"Dance and Sing,
Tumble and Roll.
Do it with Love
Let your magic unfold."


P.S.  I was given this promotional copy of The Laceyville Monkeys:  Say the Right Words for free in exchange for this review (which includes my honest opinions just as my other reviews do).

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