An impish monkey gets a comeuppance when pal Fred wakes up to some not-so-subtle mental bullying.
Whenever Fred, the forgetful elephant, is stymied into inactivity, the red monkey (with ink-drawn fuzz on the forehead that has the look of devil horns—probably not a coincidence) imagines mischievous activities for him. In a running dialogue, printed in black for the monkey and red for Fred, the monkey tells Fred that he was about to “ride a unicycle upside down,” “drink swamp water,” “go for a swim in the sea…with sharks,” “wrestle a rhino,” and “put on a nice dress and sing a happy song.” Easygoing Fred does these silly (and sometimes-dangerous) things and always winds up in trouble, sending the monkey into gales of laughter. It is his elephant friends’ laughter at the sight of him singing in a dress that suddenly rouses Fred’s indignation. Although he begins to obey the monkey’s demand that he peel a million bananas, Fred finally remembers what he really wants to do: squash his simian pal. In contrast to Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back (2011), the last page portrays reconciliation, though readers may well wish it didn’t. The digital illustrations, created with pencil, paint, and chalk, have a sketchy quality that fits their content. In addition to the nastiness of the pranks, the elephant friends’ shaming of cross-dressing Fred sounds a sour note.
Humorous but mean-spirited, this story about clever mind control that is only stopped by brute force is an unnecessary addition to the picture-book shelf. (Picture book. 4-6)