Monkey See, Monkey Draw

Monkey See, Monkey Draw

by Alex Beard

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The monkeys that live at the foot of the Mbuno Hills in Africa love to play games. One day while playing Elephant in the Middle with their large friend, their ball, a nut from an ancient baobab tree, rolls into a cave where the troop of monkeys never go. It is dark inside and possibly filled with horrible beasts! When they venture in, they discover instead that the


The monkeys that live at the foot of the Mbuno Hills in Africa love to play games. One day while playing Elephant in the Middle with their large friend, their ball, a nut from an ancient baobab tree, rolls into a cave where the troop of monkeys never go. It is dark inside and possibly filled with horrible beasts! When they venture in, they discover instead that the walls are covered with paintings of animals. Elephant shows the monkeys how they too can create artwork using their hands and feet as “stamps” and mud as their medium. But things are never quite as easy as they seem.

Artist Alex Beard brings his love of exploration and painting to life with his signature animals in this charming tale about creativity and overcoming fears.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beard uses a group of enthusiastic, spindly blue monkeys who live in a baobab tree in Africa to challenge readers to rethink art and creativity. These lithe, game-loving animals seem to swirl across the pages in stylized pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures that are both comedic and beautiful (the style is in keeping with Beard's The Jungle Grapevine), and the action spills over into the spreads' borders. When the baobab nut they are playing with rolls into a cave, Elephant leads the monkeys inside, where they discover walls decorated with paintings of animals, based on human handprints or footprints. Elephant imprints his muddy hoof on the wall and turns it into a picture of a monkey, delighting his friends with a new game (the monkeys' pointy handprints become the long legs of a giraffe and the jaw of a crocodile, among other creatures). Beard, meanwhile, demonstrates that this "game" isn't just for children--in several scenes, his monkeys' bodies consist of a human thumbprint. As the monkeys squabble about whose drawing is best, Elephant encourages them to "paint and draw just for fun." Kids will follow suit. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Hands—artists' tools, subjects, and medium—dominate this monkey tale, along with fingers and feet. The monkeys in question are bizarrely blue, elongated creatures with spidery black fingers and toes and undulating tails like segmented blue and red worms; alert viewers will notice that the monkeys' bodies are made from blue thumbprints, giving them a furry look. This troop of primates lives near the Mbuno Hills in Africa (where Beard has traveled) blithely playing games to win, especially with their friend Elephant. When their baobab-nut ball rolls into a dark, spooky cave, the monkeys panic, but brave Elephant leads them inside. (Nice contrast here between one spread showing the pitch-black interior of the cave and, on the next, an explosion of colorful painted animals!) Young artists will have fun discovering the inventive use of hand- and footprints as inspiration for animal shapes—a footprint zebra, for example, or a handprint hippo. Indeed, the monkeys enthusiastically invent a new game "Monkey See, Monkey Draw," competing madly to be the best. There's a lesson to be learned as Elephant assures them that no one's the winner: "It's not a contest." Now, the monkeys "paint and draw just for fun." Paintings crawl and sprawl over ample pages, forming intricate patterns, offering delicate details as well, like the trail of tiny ants marching down one border. (Even the font appears to be hand-designed.) Teachers and parents will want to read Beard's informative Author's Note about working on a larger scale with hand and footprints as a prelude to classroom or family projects where imaginations can run wild. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—A group of monkeys lives at the foot of the Mbuno Hills in Africa. One of their favorite games is Monkey in the Middle, played with a nut from their baobab tree. One day while they are playing with an elephant, the nut rolls into a cave. The monkeys are afraid to go after it, but the fearless elephant takes them inside to look for it. The animals are amazed to find that the cave is lined with drawings of various animals, and that each picture was formed around a hand- or footprint. When they get back outside, the monkeys dip their hands and feet in mud to make their own paintings. Although rain washes them away, Monkey See, Monkey Draw becomes one of their favorite pastimes. Beard uses his thumbprint to make the playful blue monkeys, and his pen-and-ink with watercolor drawings are swirled with color. In the center of each spread is a large black-lined rectangular box. The artwork in the box extends beyond the lines in most cases, but on some pages, the box is used as a frame for the illustration. An author's note talks about Beard's experience making hand- and footprint art. This book could be useful to teach children how to use the technique, but the expressions on the monkeys' faces may be frightening to some readers. Purchase for large art-oriented collections.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Near the Mbuno Hills in Africa, a troop of competitive monkeys learn a lesson in creativity from savvy Elephant. The monkeys love playing games like Ring Around the Rhino, Pin the Tail on the Warthog and Monkey in the Middle. One day Elephant leads the monkeys inside a cave, where they discover splendid paintings of animals created from handprints and footprints. When Elephant shows them how to make their own drawings using mud, handprints and footprints, the monkeys design a new game called Monkey See, Monkey Draw—till Elephant convinces them drawing's not a contest but a joy in its own right. Bold, imaginative and very comical pen, ink and watercolor illustrations rely on line, color, pattern and thumbprints to produce surreal, gangly blue monkeys frenetically cavorting and clambering across the pages. Trim borders focus attention on the main activity of each double-page spread, but monkey tails, arms and legs inevitably spill into margins filled with indigenous flora and fauna. Beard aptly conjures the look and feel of prehistoric cave paintings, inspiring readers to create their own. Wild and wonderful. (author's note)(Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 12.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Alex Beard is an artist whose work has been shown in New Orleans, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong, among other cities. He is also the author of Abrams’s Jungle Grapevine, which Publishers Weekly called “visually compelling.” He lives with his wife and children in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he has a gallery. Visit him online at

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