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CLOUD TEA MONKEYS by Mal Peet Kirkus Star

CLOUD TEA MONKEYS

By Mal Peet (Author) , Elspeth Graham (Author) , Juan Wijngaard (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4453-6
Publisher: Candlewick

Tea, labor-intensive to harvest, is a precious commodity, but wild-growing cloud tea, found only in the highest, dangerous-to-reach mountaintops, is the most prized of all in this lyrical story based on a Chinese folktale. Readers are transported to an unnamed past and place (identified in the author’s note as the Himalayan region) where Tashi’s mother becomes too sick to pick tea, and Tashi and her “cloud tea monkeys” save the day. The poetic text is vividly descriptive: “…a light the color of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars.” The deftly spun, emotionally resonant fairy-tale story—with its repulsive, mean plantation Overseer and at-first-intimidating Royal Tea Taster, who delights in Tashi’s impossible harvest—begs to be read aloud. No design detail is overlooked, from the gorgeous cover (and its glossy, raised, curling, monkey-shaped tea steam) forward. Wijngaard’s elegant, exquisitely etched gouache-and-ink illustrations of both characters and landscapes are splashed across spreads or framed on cream-colored paper with subtle geometric borders. Unlike cloud tea, an accessible treasure. (authors’ note) (Picture book. 5-9)