Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India (review)
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Reviewed by
McDermott, Gerald, ad. Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India; ad. and illus. by Gerald McDermott. Harcourt, 2011. 32p. ISBN 978-0-15-216596-3 $16.99 R 4-7 yrs.

This sixth and final installment (according to a note) in McDermott's series of multicultural trickster stories draws on the Jataka tales of ancient Buddhist tradition to tell the story of a clever monkey who twice tricks a hungry crocodile. First, the crocodile offers the monkey a ride on his back; when the croc then declares his intention to eat the monkey's heart, the monkey cunningly claims heartlessness ("'Eat my heart?' said Monkey. 'What a pity. I left it up in the tree") and thus escapes. Next the crocodile disguises himself as a stepping stone, but the wise monkey tricks him into talking and thus revealing his true identity. A fine example of a trickster tale, this features an appealing pair of main characters, touches of humor, and entertaining plot twists. While the dialogue is a bit dry, the simple and straightforward tone makes this a very accessible offering, particularly for younger audiences. Jovial Monkey is an especially appealing character; seemingly susceptible to trickery himself, he's actually a few steps ahead of Crocodile. McDermott's art makes excellent use of his collage work; a finely tuned palette of turquoise, coral, and emerald green offers compositional consistency, while the hand-painted collage paper provides abundant texture and patterning. The representation of Monkey's fur, made by "teasing apart moistened handmade paper to create a furry edge," works to great effect, as does the boxy detail of the crocodile's scales. This is a tightly focused tale with a great payoff; playful, spirited Monkey comes out on top while devious and dimwitted Crocodile is left hungry, and listeners are certain to cheer for the cheeky primate's final victory. A foreword about the Jataka tales and McDermott's adaptation is included. [End Page 531]

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