Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monkey with a Tool Belt

Cover of Monkey with a Tool Belt featuring a brown monkey holding a wrenchI'm generally not a huge fan of picture books (reserving my age-inapproriate reading to juvenile and young adult novels), but when I heard cartoonist Chris Monroe had written and illustrated one, I had to check it out.

Monroe's reputation is not only unsullied, but expanded -- Monkey with a Tool Belt is more fun than a barrel full of furry prehensile-toed mammals. The story focuses on the eponymous Chico Bon Bon, who lives in the coolest of multilevel treehouses and uses his tools to help his friends make fun new toys.

Two items Chico made were a go-kart for Go-Go the gorilla to transport the skunks...
Illustration of a gorilla with a helmet driving a go kart, towing three skunks in a green trailer
and a small roller coaster for the local chipmunks.
Illustration of Chico buildign a yellow rollercoaster with four chipmunks racing around the track
But Chico's life of good works is interrupted when a selfish organ-grinder captures him to replace his other monkey, who "had run away earlier that week with the help of several circus tigers."
Illustration of a different monkey being let out of a cage by two tigers with a bindle
(I love that image. Let's hear it for interspecies cooperation!)

Chico, of course, manages to outsmart the organ grinder with the help of his tool belt, but not before he is taken on a riotously circuitous ride on the back of the organ grinder's bicycle through a detailed watercolor landscape. Ending up at the circus, he quickly uses his noggin and his tools to find a way out of the box he is trapped in.

Then he takes the bus home (of course!) and settles into his treehouse for a good night's sleep, dreaming of all the things he's going to create next.

Monroe strikes a perfect balance between a compelling main character, a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and the kind of artwork that will keep kids (and parents) interested through multiple readings.

And she even manages to conclude with Chico going to sleep -- making it a good bedtime book as well.


David Steinlicht said...

Chris Monroe has a new book coming out soon, "Monkey With a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem."


Seo said...

Ooo, I am so out if when it comes to picture books, so I definitely have to get this for the wee Lee. What beautiful illustrations!