Gr 4-6-Prosperous villagers in an Amazon rain forest have everything they need; therefore, they become lazy and disregard their forefathers' traditions. Then a child brings an old man to the village who cuts monkeys out of leaves, monkeys that spring to life and do his bidding. The villagers request small chores at first, then bigger ones, until more and more monkeys are doing everything for them, including breathing, digesting, and complaining. At this point it is hard to distinguish the monkeys from the people or vice versa. The tale gets bogged down in places because of the characters' continuous and ever more preposterous demands. It is difficult to determine the audience for this Colombian folktale. Challenging words, e.g., antipathy, nuance, piqued, overwhelming, and phalanxes, are not even in the listening vocabulary of most young readers. Bryan's splendid cut-paper illustrations, however, help to hold readers' interest and keep the story lively. Dark silhouettes set on colored backgrounds, reminiscent of those in Marcia Brown's Shadow (Macmillan, 1986), lend a South American flavor to the text. Buy the book for the artwork alone if South American folklore is in demand.Betty Teague, Blythe Academy of Languages, Greenville, SC
In this Colombian folktale, the people of an Amazon rain forest village begin neglecting their chores and moving every time their village gets too dirty. Soon even moving becomes too burdensome, so when a mysterious old man carves monkeys out of leaves and offers to bring them to life to work for the villagers, the people happily agree. Unfortunately, the perpetually dissatisfied villagers request monkeys to perform every task, even breathing and complaining, until the monkeys and humans become indistinguishable. Metaxas has an easy storytelling style, but he offers no source notes and confusingly inserts an alternative ending, from "older versions" of the story, that breaks the mood. Bryan's illustrations, black cut-paper silhouettes cast into sharply comical shapes and placed against bright backgrounds, are not only striking but also a perfect match for a story about carved monkeys.