Cloud Tea Monkeys

( 4 )

Overview

Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet and his wife, Elspeth Graham, team up for a captivating, lushly illustrated tale evoking a Chinese legend.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Tashi lives in a tiny village at the foot of the mountains, below the tea plantations where her mother works. When her mother falls ill, Tashi goes alone to the plantation, hoping to earn money for the doctor. But she is far too small to harvest the tender shoots, and her clumsy ...

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Overview

Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet and his wife, Elspeth Graham, team up for a captivating, lushly illustrated tale evoking a Chinese legend.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Tashi lives in a tiny village at the foot of the mountains, below the tea plantations where her mother works. When her mother falls ill, Tashi goes alone to the plantation, hoping to earn money for the doctor. But she is far too small to harvest the tender shoots, and her clumsy efforts anger the cruel Overseer. She is desolate, until — chack-chack-chack! — something extraordinary happens. Inspired by a centuries-old legend of tea-picking monkeys, here is a richly told tale full of vivid characters: the heartless Overseer, the enigmatic Royal Tea Taster, and — far away — an empress with a penchant for tea.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Every morning Tashi leaves with her mother and the other women of the village who must go to the immense tea field to pick the delicate leaves. Tashi is too young to pick, so she bides her time playing with the friendly monkeys. One morning her mother is ill, and little Tashi drags the heavy basket to the field only to encounter scorn from the derisive Overseer. Running away to the monkeys, she falls asleep under a tree. The monkeys take her basket high up into the mountains and when Tashi awakes she finds it filled with sweet green tea leaves. She hauls the heavy basket back to the Overseer and is surprised to find the Royal Tea Tester has arrived to select the finest tea for the Queen. With exaggerated ceremony he judges Tashi's tea the best. He recognizes it as cloud tea, but, when Tashi refuses to tell him how she procured it, he gives her a bag of gold coins and extracts a promise to bring him cloud tea once a year in exchange for the bags of coins. Tashi and her mother were able to live quietly and comfortably keeping the secret of the cloud tea. Based on Himalayan legends that tell of monkeys trained to pick tea, Peet and Graham have fashioned an exquisitely beautiful story. The story flows smoothly and quietly with poetic phrasing such as "rows of glossy green bushes curved into the distance like waves" and he "sucked in tea with a tremendous snorty slurping sound." Lavish illustrations in ink and gouache on rich cream paper with subtle patterned borders are handsomely crafted. Fairy tale elements of monkeys and magic, a tyrannical overseer, an elegantly bejeweled courtier, and a small but brave heroine blend seamlessly to capture and hold a child's interest. From the embossed cover, to the delicately patterned endpapers and the beautiful story within, this is bookmaking at its best. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Tashi's mother labors on a tea plantation in the shadow of the Himalayas. One day she is too ill to get out of bed. Tashi knows that without her day's wages, they won't have money for a doctor, but without medical care her mother won't get well enough to work. "The problem went around and around. It was like a snake with its tail in its mouth, and Tashi was frightened by it." The child tries to pick tea herself, but she is too small to reach the tops of the plants where the tender new leaves grow. She retreats in tears, only to be comforted by a troop of monkeys she has befriended. And then the magical element of the story emerges: the monkeys climb into the mountains and pick the rarest and most sought-after tea leaves in the world. The Royal Tea Taster samples the leaves in Tashi's basket and pays her a handsome sum, with the promise of more in the future. This story, inspired by tales of tea-picking monkeys of the Himalayas, would be merely pleasant were it not for Wijngaard's expressive, richly detailed ink-and-gouache illustrations. Tashi's solemn face as she comforts her bedridden mother, the dynamic depictions of the Tea Taster swishing tea and spitting out a mouthful, the play of light through the branches under which the monkeys eat fruit, and even the delicate tracery of a decorative pattern on the bottom of each page all contribute to the thoughtful bookmaking.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Publishers Weekly
A story inspired by Chinese legends comes to luminous life in the hands of Carnegie Medal–winner Peet (Tamar); his wife, Graham; and Greenaway Medalist Wijngaard (Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady). The authors’ richly descriptive tone sets the stage: “The sun had not yet found a way through the mountains, but it was coming; a light the color of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars.” Each day, as Tashi’s mother works in the tea fields, Tashi slips away to share her lunch with the wild monkeys. When Tashi’s mother falls ill, the girl desperately tries, and fails, to pick tea to earn money for a doctor. Disappearing into the cloudy Himalayan peaks, the monkeys return with a rare, coveted “cloud tea” that prompts a life-changing reward from the visiting Royal Tea Taster. Formal, expressive ink and gouache illustrations capture every nuance; Wijngaard also gently mocks the adults in power; in a funny, four-panel illustration, the Taster comically swishes and spits like a self-important wine connoisseur. Unique and atmospheric, this tale freshly presents the karmic rewards of kindness. Ages 4–up. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Tea, labor-intensive to harvest, is a precious commodity, but wild-growing cloud tea, found only in the highest, dangerous-to-reach mountaintops, is the most prized of all in this lyrical story based on a Chinese folktale. Readers are transported to an unnamed past and place (identified in the author's note as the Himalayan region) where Tashi's mother becomes too sick to pick tea, and Tashi and her "cloud tea monkeys" save the day. The poetic text is vividly descriptive: " . . . a light the color of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars." The deftly spun, emotionally resonant fairy-tale story-with its repulsive, mean plantation Overseer and at-first-intimidating Royal Tea Taster, who delights in Tashi's impossible harvest-begs to be read aloud. No design detail is overlooked, from the gorgeous cover (and its glossy, raised, curling, monkey-shaped tea steam) forward. Wijngaard's elegant, exquisitely etched gouache-and-ink illustrations of both characters and landscapes are splashed across spreads or framed on cream-colored paper with subtle geometric borders. Unlike cloud tea, an accessible treasure. (authors' note) (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763644536
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 675,633
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham live in Devon, England, in a house not too far from the sea. Elspeth writes on the ground floor, and Mal writes in the attic. Sometimes they meet in the middle to write books like this one. Elspeth Graham found the seed for the story while writing a book about tea. Mal Peet is the author of such YA novels as KEEPER, THE PENALTY, EXPOSURE, and the Carnegie Medal-winning TAMAR.

Juan Wijngaard has illustrated more than thirty books for children, including SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE: AN INTERACTICE POP-UP THEATRE and the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning SIR GAWAIN AND THE LOATHLY LADY. He lives in New Mexico.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    The title of the book encompasses the story completely.

    The story was beautifully descriptive and interesting. The illustrations also are captivating to the story. A book I would read over and over again to my grandchildren. A book children would enjoy and adults.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Lovely Tale

    This is a beautiful book with lovely illustrations. It's an interesting story with lots to talk about with your young reader. It's accessible to a younger audience than other Mal Peet books that I've read (Keeper and Tamar, which are also both excellent), but could be enjoyed by any age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    A most beautiful book with an uplifting story

    This is a wonderful book for parents to share with their children. It is a story of how respect for others is rewarded in a time of need. The writing and the pictures are beautifully matched.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An unusual and moving story

    As a fan of Mal Peet's novel, TAMAR, I read the WSJ review of CLOUD TEA MONKEYS with great interest and ordered the book immediately. I finally read it last week and was charmed. It's a wise, compassionate, and unusual story of a young girl whose mother is felled by an illness (malaria?), necessitating the need for her to take on her mother's work (picking tea leaves, which is more challenging than you'd think). She finds the task nearly impossible, but some friendly helpers come alongside, filling her heavy basket with exquisite leaves. I'd recommend it to older children (6 and up) and even adults!

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