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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Monkey with a Tool Belt

If you read only one review of this book, make it Betsy Bird’s at A Fuse #8 If you want to enjoy with me a fun book, read on.  I remember reading this review back in February, but then I didn’t have the book in my hands so I didn’t pay it enough attention. Now that I have my hands on this book, I won’t give it up. Don’t make me give it to the library… I want it myself. I agree with the Fuse review, and I want to bring this back to your mind so YOU go out and get a copy, too. You’ll probably need extra copies because you are going to want to give this book to others.

Coming from a family of carpenters, mechanics, and race car fanatics, I grew up with tools. That doesn’t mean I know how to use them, just that I have snuck into my grandpa’s garage to play with his work tools far too many times. I quickly learned that I could play with the vice grips, boards, planes, and lots of hammers and nails. 

I also learned how much trouble you can get into if you don’t put everything back EXACTLY where you found it. I believe my father even measured his tools so that they were exactly 3/16ths apart. I never dared touch his tools at the gas station. But, knowing people that love tools makes buying presents much easier. We started giving our sons tools for Christmas and hope to continue this for years.

Monkey with a Tool Belt is simply great fun. I found this picture on flickr so you can see some of the incredible details. Aha! Probably the copyright police are going to go question where they came from, but I think it’s part of the web 2.0 phenom that everyone wants to share their favorite parts. Show and Tell gone wild. Just look at some of the other posts about this title. 

Goodreads review
Three Silly Chicks Blog Review
Shu’s Blog of Lit and More where he explains how he put down the book twice
Jen Robinson’s Book Blog

Why such a hit? The writing is so simple that preschoolers will enjoy it. There are details on every page for adults to cherish. Chris Monroe has done an excellent job of interweaving simple ideas with absurd intricate details. When you share this with others, they are bond to ask you about every single tool, "Is that a real tool?" 

You’ll read "He’ll need all his drill bits to fix up this ramp, plus a chisel, a frizzle, and a giant C-clamp." The kids will demand you show them what a frizzle is. Good luck?!

 The illustrations in this book vary so much from page to page that the reader cannot predict what will happen next. Chris Monroe varies large single illustrations on pages with 12 comic book style panes on the next double-page spread. The simplicity of the page where Chico Bon Bon is trapped and tied to a bike is immediately followed by a Richard Scarry-like maze of tiny drawings to accompany the words, "He rode a long, long way." Go back and count how many times the evil kidnapper and his bicycle appear. 

The rhyming structure is sure to appeal to teachers and students and offers reasons to read this again and again. I am on my 10th read for today. In fact, I drove to my friends house to check on a couple tools to see if they were real or imaginary myself. I threw the car in park, threw open the door, and three of us huddled around this book savoring the details while the car ran. With the price of gas, you KNOW this was an amazing book. 

Hey, Carolrhoda, when is the sequel going to be out? Will we learn more about the previously escaped monkey Bobo? Will Chico continue to sleep with his tool belt? Will Chris Monroe introduce us to Chico’s cousin, the mechanic? Will this title receive the honors and admiration due? Stay tuned.