Two curious monkeys think they are alone on an island in the middle of the sea.
The narrating monkey stares through a pair of binoculars and begins the repeating refrain: “In the middle of the sea, / as far as the eye could see, / there was nothing to see / but sea.” Quite full for a deserted spot, the tiny island the monkeys are stranded on has a volcano, a cave, boulders, and three coconut trees. With each page turn, however, animals start to emerge from the crevasses, so the narrator needs to adjust the ever expanding, cumulative verse. Suddenly there are also “two wee dogs who thought they were frogs” and “three perky pigs all wearing wigs.” From one to 10, more and more animals come, painted with exuberant anthropomorphism by Hillenbrand (the punk-tressed pigs in grass skirts are a special treat). He plants cues in his mottled, digital spreads to help observant readers predict what creature may come next. Annie McPhee (the narrator’s original monkey pal) grows increasingly worried as the crowd expands. By the time “ten rascally rats skipping in hats” come prancing by, poor Annie McPhee has had enough. A certain spout on the cover (and dedication page) hints at the monkeys’ escape plan.
There’s not much new under the sun, or in the sea, but a bouncy rhythm—and full-on shouted conclusion—can’t be beat. (Picture book. 3-6)