I love all the little fun holidays I find when I'm looking for inspirations for a new post. When I found that December 14th is Monkey Day, I immediately thought of my favorite picture books starring monkey characters. Luckily, Monkey Day is also inclusionary, so we can also celebrate great books about apes and other primates!
"Caps! Caps for sale! 50 cents a cap!" Published in 1940, Caps for Sale has been a read-aloud favorite for many preschool story times and classrooms for generations. This story of a befuddled peddler and some very mischievous monkeys is sure to encite many giggles!
The Color Box is one of my favorite books about colors; when Alexander the monkey finds an otherwise ordinary-looking box, he leaps into different worlds of color. Sharp-eyed readers/listeners will be able to guess each succeeding color.
Need a picture book for a kindergarten or lower elementary read aloud? Count the Monkeys should be on your list. Mac Barnett's interactive tale of a reader trying (in vain) to count monkeys on each page is fun to read and to listen to.
Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes, part of the fabulous Scientists in the Field series, introduces readers to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, one of the oldest research organizations dedicated to saving the gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda. Young primate enthusiasts should also check out National Geographic's Face to Face With Gorillas.
If I were to ask you to name the most famous picture book about a monkey, what would you reply? Most people would undoubtedly say Curious George. Most people, however, probably don't know that George's creators, Margret and H.A. Rey, fled Nazi persecution on bicycle with little but the clothes on their back. Tucked inside their few belongings was the manuscript for the first stand-alone Curious George picture book (he was earlier introduced in Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys). The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey is an origin tale better than any superhero story!
I never, ever expect my favorite books to win the Newbery Medal, so I was gobsmacked when The One and Only Ivan received the 2013 Newbery Medal. This improbable tale of a friendship between a silverback gorilla and an elephant is not for the faint of heart; it is overflowing with hope, heartbreak, and love. Katherine Applegate based her story on an actual silverback gorilla that was inadequately sheltered at a mall for 27 years until he was relocated to a zoo that could better take care of his needs (she later wrote a picture book biography of the real Ivan).
Playtime? is on my list for the 2017 Caldecott; it may be a long shot (an Honor would be awesome!), I'll admit, but this nearly wordless tale of a young boy trying to put a gorilla to bed is one of the funniest picture books I've read this year.
Me...Jane is a darling introduction to famed gorilla researcher Jane Goodall; it's a strong read aloud choice, but those looking for more biographical information should pick up Who is Jane Goodall?, part of the super fun Who Is/Was series, or Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birut Galdikas, which is a great graphic-novel look at three prominent female primate researchers.
Want more informational books about primates? Browse through the J 599.8 section.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library