So Say the Little Monkeys.
This playful rhyming book, filled with nonsensical monkey sounds and exclamations of delight, is a fun read-aloud book for small children. Based on a Brazilian folktale, So Say the Little Monkeys tells the story of the tiny black monkeys that live along the banks of the dark-watered Rio Negro, or Black River, in Brazil.
The monkeys live in the tops of the thorn-covered palm trees, where they eat fruit and play all day. Unlike their neighbors the birds, the monkeys do not build a permanent dwelling, and instead spend their nights shivering in the cold, their days shivering in the rain, and sleep on the sharp thorns, even though it is painful. The Brazilian Indians created this amusing tale to explain to their children why the monkeys do not take better care of themselves.
Re-told by Nancy Van Laan, So Say the Little Monkeys is illustrated by artist Yumi Heo, whose illustrations of the monkeys bear a striking resemblance to author Ayun Halliday's drawings of her daughter, Inky.
Van Laan re-tells the legend with a keen ear for sounds that children love to say aloud:
Still they climb, UP-UP!
And they slide, DOWN-DOWN!
They sing, "Jibba jibba jabba,"
swinging round and round.
JUMP, JABBA JABBA,
RUN, JABBA JABBA,
SLIDE, JABBA JABBA,
Tiny, tiny monkeys having fun!
Van Laan cleverly taps into activities that children also enjoy, creating a sense of empathy and cameraderie to the dizzy little monkeys, whose sole purpose in life seems to be devoted to play rather than the depressing, adult details of survival. Unlike the children who are safe and warm in bed, hearing the story read by people who do their worrying for them about food, clothing and shelter, the monkeys have a heavy price to pay for their daytime silliness, encouraging children, one would hope, to place their trust and appreciation in their caretakers.
Which of course, never happens, so just hang that dream up right now.
So Say the Little Monkeys was published in 1998 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, a Simon and Schuster imprint.
Appropriate for ages 2-5.