Tuesday, December 8, 2009

REVIEW: Never Smile at a Monkey

Jenkins, S.  (2009).  Never Smile at a Monkey:  And 17 other important things to remember.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.


So, the back cover and title page share this pretty little illustration...

Crud, that is one unhappy looking monkey.  I don't want to smile at that crazy dude.  That's for sure.

30-Second Summary:  This picturebook shares information on 18 creatures that are surprisingly dangerous.  In large font, it gives a command--like "never smile at a monkey" and in smaller font, the book gives an explanation for its rules specifically describing what makes each animal dangerous.

The illustrations consist of torn and cut paper and are fun with lots of colors.  Most of the paper art make the animals look adorable (I'm looking at you, "Never cuddle a cub" page).  While some might accuse these pictures of downplaying the dangers of the animals, I think it makes the dangers that much more surprising.

Of course, the one concern that I have with this book is that young readers may take it too seriously and develop paralyzing fears of some of the creatures.  In these cases, a teacher should be ready to discuss how minimal the chances are of a someone actually being near a jellyfish or the fact that for some of the creatures there are anti-venoms or the fact that the creatures in zoos are more accustomed to being around humans and are hopefully less likely to, you know, attack.

The book makes good use of alliteration in the commands, making cool phrases like "never harass a hippopotamus" and "never jostle a jellyfish."  While this helps to make the various phrases fun and memorable, a teacher could also encourage students to use alliteration in their own writings.


Since the majority of the book doesn't actually give more than the minimal information about each of the creatures (although there is a very informative appendix on each animal!), students could pick an animal and do more extensive research on the habits of the animals as well as appropriate behaviors to deal with the animals (thus, hopeful decreasing any fear that a reader may feel after going through this book).

A teacher could also focus on the artwork of Never Smile at a Monkey, using it to begin a project on using torn and cut paper to create creatures or landscapes.

Quotes of Note:

"This book is about creatures--both large and small--whose dangerous nature may not be so obvious.  Their teeth, claws, spines, and venom can be deadly to an unsuspecting or careless human.
What makes these animals dangerous?  And what should you never do if you encounter one of them?"

"Never pet a platypus."

"Never poach a puffer fish.  The puffer fish can inflate itself like a prickly balloon, but that's not what makes it so dangerous."

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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