A cute read about the unusual friendship of a monkey and a little mouse Little One, Monkey and the Little One by author-illustrator Claire Alexander (2015, Sterling Children’s Books) shares an important lesson about valuing those around us.
Here’s a quick summary …. It all starts out with Monkey enjoying his bananas just like he always does. And then Little One comes to visit. And Monkey does not like this. He does not want to hang out with Little One, and he makes it known. Monkey shouts and complains so much that one day Little One leaves. Finally, Monkey has time to himself again. But then he realizes that being alone isn’t so much fun, so he takes off on a quest to find Little One.
So here’s what I love about Monkey and the Little One:
(1) The illustrations. I love Alexander’s bold colors and lines. There is a lot of energy created with her colors. I especially love the blue and white slanted strokes on the page that reads, “But one day Monkey found he was no longer alone.” The true test of a well-illustrated book is if you can hang up most of the illustrations on your wall. And this book definitely passes that test.
(2) The realness. This is not a children’s book that hides away from strong emotions and the difficulties of change. We can all relate to being excluded by someone or not wanting to have to play with the new kid. Although this book ends nicely, it still has a lot of themes that can resonant with lower elementary school students. I think this book qualifies as a realistic fiction even though the characters are animals.
And here’s what I didn’t love so much:
(1) Lack of originality. The story did not feel incredible new to me. That’s not to say that I don’t think there is a place for it on our bookshelves. I just don’t think it pushes the boundaries of children’s literature.
Here are some teaching ideas for Monkey and the Little One:
(1) Ask students to draw a picture in which they either substitute the Monkey or Little One for themselves. Then ask students to explain their artistic choice and what they learned about themselves from this activity.
(2) Ask students to retell or rewrite the story from Little One. I have a feeling the story might have been a little different told from Little One’s side.
Tell me what you and your students or kids thought about Monkey and the Little One in the comments below!