Count the Monkeys

Mac Barnett, illus. by Kevin Cornell. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-6065-6
Carrying out the titular imperative proves tough, given that, on every spread, monkeys are nowhere to be seen. Luckily, the mounting number of predators that have scared them off can be enumerated, even if their appearances don’t always jive with the classic food chain. There’s one very vain king cobra on the opening spread, but soon the action devolves to include “6 sweet old beekeepers” and “10 polka-dotted rhinoceroses with bagpipes and bad breath.” Cornell (who previously teamed up with Barnett for Mustache!) is an artist in the modern-day Disney animation tradition, effortlessly juggling funny chaos, irreverent characterizations, and visual winks and nudges. Barnett’s narrator may be increasingly frustrated (“We’re never going to count the monkeys!”) but he also has expert comic timing, includes multiple opportunities for audience participation, and riffs on collaborative learning: “Look! 2 mongooses have chased away that cobra! Or is that 2 mongeese? I am pretty sure it is 2 monogooses. Let’s vote.” This spot-on spoof of counting books is the perfect reward for anyone who’s put in a hard day’s work with numbers, big or small. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
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