A mouse disturbs a monkey’s tranquility but soon turns from irksome to indispensable in Alexander’s tale of friendship’s often strange course.
First, however, the artwork: a lovely combination of media creates landscapes and companionable characters in a broad range of sunny (if not particularly jungly) pastels. The story: Monkey lives alone in the jungle (“he liked it that way”), munching on bananas, reading in the crook of a tree limb, swimming in the cool, cool water of the lake. Little One (a mouse) appears, unbidden and unwanted. Monkey politely asks him to scram. Mouse is not conversant with “monkey-speak,” so he blithely settles in under Monkey’s hammock. Little One follows Monkey everywhere, innocently mimicking him (except for the bananas: “Yuck!”) and holding out peace offering after peace offering. Finally, Monkey erupts: “Leave me alone!”; and Little One does. Monkey finds himself discomfited. It’s not remorse or loneliness but something ineffable: “somehow it didn’t feel the same as before.” Monkey goes in search of Little One and welcomes him back. “The Little One still followed Monkey everywhere...but somehow Monkey didn’t mind anymore.” Somehow—but what changed Monkey’s mind? Sharing company can be a complicated, contradictory, confusing (dis)pleasure, but “somehow” doesn’t pass muster. There is nothing here for young readers to hang their hats on, no takeaway.
The story looks beautiful, but the depths of the issue are never plumbed. (Picture book. 3-6)