Odd couples abound in early readers (see Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, Wong Herbert Yee’s Mouse and Mole, to name a few), but there’s room for Monkey and Elephant, too.
The eponymous characters try “to rest under the afternoon sun,” but it’s too hot, so they go in search of shade. Over the course of a journey initially fraught with bickering, they quickly resolve problems and even end up cheerily singing together. In chapter three, they mistake a distant group of wild cats for a cluster of shade trees, but Elephant handily defends Monkey when they say they want to eat her. “How about…you guys have DUST CAKE for snack today?” he responds, scuffing up the ground. Accompanying digital art shows the striped cats sitting stunned into submission, their eyes looking upward to an off-stage Elephant—though dust clouds are absent, diminishing the drama. There’s a Horton-esque quality about Bernstein’s Elephant throughout, and both he and Monkey exude personality. This achievement in visual characterization is matched by Schaefer’s text, which employs controlled word choices and embeds careful repetition in support of the emerging reader.
A welcome addition to the early-reader shelf. (Early reader. 5-7)