The Jungle Grapevine


In his children’s book debut, fine artist Alex Beard brings to life an African savanna filled with humor and misunderstandings.
When Bird mixes up something Turtle says, he accidentally starts a rumor about the watering hole drying up. One misunderstanding leads to another, with animals making their own hilarious assumptions.
No one is hearing anything right, ...

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In his children’s book debut, fine artist Alex Beard brings to life an African savanna filled with humor and misunderstandings.
When Bird mixes up something Turtle says, he accidentally starts a rumor about the watering hole drying up. One misunderstanding leads to another, with animals making their own hilarious assumptions.
No one is hearing anything right, and soon the animals are in an uproar from one end of the jungle to the other. Elephant is trumpeting, Croc is snapping, and the Flamingos are fleeing! Beard’s story will have every child wondering if peace can ever be restored in the animal kingdom.
Alex Beard has two galleries, one in New Orleans and the other in New York City. Along with his paintings and prints, he has created a line of puzzles that was launched through national accounts in fall 2008 and spring 2009. Puzzles based on The Jungle Grapevine will be launched in conjunction with this book in fall 2009.

F&P level: L

F&P genre: F

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Birds, snakes, gazelles and other African animals, rendered in stylized pen, ink and watercolor art, inadvertently pass along misinformation in this clever take on the familiar game of telephone. The ruckus begins when a geometrically patterned turtle comments, “The Watering Hole is always good for a laugh.... But lately the humor has been drying up.” Bird then tells Elephant that the Watering Hole is drying up, prompting a rumor of drought that gets twisted into fears of flood and news of mass migration. Debut author Beard's illustrations, which reveal characters in constant motion, bypass mere naturalism to evoke the creatures' emotional states and personalities (the bodies of a startled flock of flamingoes are defined by bold spirals that resemble treble clefs; music notes blast from an elephant's trunk while animals in the borders play trumpets and horns). A substantial black border focuses the action like a camera lens, as additional creatures and flora spill out into the edges. Beard neatly brings the story full circle, but paves the way for a new round of misunderstandings. Dryly witty and visually compelling. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Bear has set his variation on the old game of "Telephone" on the African savanna. In his succinct text, Turtle and Bird are walking under the African sun. Turtle notes that the humor he has found in the Watering Hole has been drying up. Bird flies off, contemplating what he thinks Turtle said and encounters Elephant. To him he reports only the "drying up." So, the miscommunication grows. Upset at the thought of drought, Elephant trumpets to Snake that the Watering Hole is dry. Examining it himself, Snake tells Crocodile that it "issss not too dry." It might flood. Alarmed, Crocodile stirs the flamingos. The startled Gazelle sprints away. Lion then thinks the migration has begun, but finds only Hippo at the Watering Hole. Bird then misinterprets Hippo's remarks and the rumors fly again. The very brief text is set like captions under the double-page illustrations in their thin, black borders, with animals dancing around outside them. Beard's pen and ink and washy watercolors have an innocence that provides basic naturalism with his personal interpretations. He is concerned with the page designs, the overall esthetic appeal as well as such action as the crocodile's leap for a flamingo. The animals dominate the scenes, needing only the sketchiest of settings in which to set their performance. The end pages house a pictorial map showing the landscape and all the animals. A note by the author adds information on his time in Africa from which he has drawn the story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Grapevine immediately announces itself as playfully idiomatic. When Bird isn't certain of what Turtle's told him (the watering hole's humor is "drying up"), he sparks a series of misunderstandings. He tells Elephant that the watering hole itself is drying up. As word spreads from Elephant to Snake to Crocodile, and so on, the confusion builds as the animals are caught in an unintended game of telephone. The simple pen-and-ink and watercolor spreads are imaginative and employ a picture frame that the unruly animals often break through. Beard uses a subtle palette as well as brightly colored pages with plenty of white space. Budding artists will appreciate the humor of the elegantly stylized illustrations. This offering is ripe for lessons on idiomatic expressions, rumors, gossip, the age-old game of telephone, and life at an African watering hole.—Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Imbuing a game of "Telephone" with elements of Chicken Little's hysteria, Beard focuses on the animals dwelling around a watering hole in a fictive African landscape. Turtle comments to Bird, "The Watering Hole is always good for a laugh . . . .But lately the humor has been drying up." Bird mistakenly conveys to Elephant that the watering hole is drying up, thereby starting a cascade of further misunderstandings that finally circle back to another incipient misread by Bird at tale's end. Beard's experiences in Kenya and other African countries lend authority to the tale, but its agreeable premise is muddied by textual confusion and reliance on children's dubious ability to comprehend metaphor. Pale watercolors convey the heat and the rich array of wildlife in black-bordered double-page spreads. Outside some borders, thumbnails provide additional depictions of wildlife-insects, wildebeests, zebras-and extend the text's humor. Regrettably, this visual enhancement is not employed throughout, flattening the panache. One wonders, too, about the choice of "Jungle" for the title, since the setting, depicted in charming endpaper maps, appears to be a savanna. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810980013
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 12.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Beard

Alex Beard is a painter whose work has been shown in New Orleans, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong, among other cities. Alex grew up among some of the world’s most interesting and influential people. Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and their Pop World cohorts were familiar faces in the Beard household. His extensive travels through Africa inspired this book. He lives with his wife and son in New York City. Visit his Web site at

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