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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Tools – I love my monkey with a tool belt

I fell in love with the book Monkey with a Tool Belt last year. I read it again while reviewing Chris Monroe’s new book Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem (Carolrhoda, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8225-9247-1) and I’m STILL in love with that monkey. Oh, to have a handy-monkey around the house. 

While the first book lured me in with the fun wordplay, Monkey…and the Noisy Problem hooked me by showing this very creative monkey USING his tools. 
Chico Bon Bon is woken by a very loud noise one morning and proceeds to search for the cause while FIXING various problems using real and imaginary tools. One of my favorites on this belt is the pickle picker. 

With sentences like "Chico heard the noise 17 times during breakfast." elementary students will relate to both the absurdities and the seriousness that needs counting of Chico’s dilemma. Then along comes another favored illustration of Chico using his hear-a-lot-tool from his belt that he puts up to the wall. PRICELESS. Students will love pouring over the intricate, teeny-tiny details of Chico’s world. 

I’m not going to spoil your surprise over the cause of the very Noisy Problem, but trust me that you will be surprised. I’ve gotta tell you that I love how Monroe side-steps the implausibilities by writing that Chico Bon Bon wanted to ask how this had happened, but "thought that might be rude" so he just goes on. While adults might insist on knowing how it possibly could happen, students will be content with just moving on.

Don’t focus on using this with large groups because there is so much detail that would be lost. Sure students will enjoy the overall story, but it’s the details that make this book a delight. Much like Richard Scarry’s work (that drove me and all other babysitters wild with frustration), this book needs to be devoured and discussed one-on-one and over-and-over.  Some books are special like that. They don’t fit with large groups, they need to be hand-selected and given to children. 

How many students do you have that are kinesthetic learners? These students need to see that their activity can be channeled into useful skills like carpentry and engineering. Their learning needs to be valued. Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem plus Monkey with a Tool Belt meet the needs of our kinesthetic learners.

Most school curriculums have a lesson for second-graders that involves "tools," but you aren’t going to see many teachers bringing in handymen to show off their tools. Of course, I did… I brought my library assistant Dorothy Reed’s husband Graham in to show off his master masonry tools. Cool! Plumb lines and levels. Measuring tape and chalk. Shivers go up and down my spine at the thought. 

My only question for Chris Monroe is… "Where is monkey’s mechanical tool belt?" He probably has some car tools, also. Are we going to see him in action at the garage sometime soon? In the meantime, I’ll take all the Monkey with a tool belt titles I can get and I hope you seize yours.

How did we ever live to grow up? My brothers and I played with my grandfather’s tools (not yours, Dad, oh, no, we’d never touch those) in his carpenter shop/garage any chance we had. We used hammers, saws, vices, screwdrivers, drills,… if we saw it, we tried it. I was never very successful so my sons still take the tools away from me. I encouraged my sons to use tools to fix things around the house when they were very young. Give me a break…you taught your children to use scissors, knives, and forks, didn’t you? Why haven’t you taught them about these tools?

Remember when you could buy kid-sized tool kits and the hammering sets were wood & metal, not plastic? If you take your kids to the local Home Depot store on a Saturday, you can sign up your child for a free class to actually build something. I loved doing that. You never know when I’m going to need 4 bird feeders or 4 shelves or 4 you-name-it’s. 

Recently at the Scholastic Warehouse sales super-duper sale where everything was $1, $2, or $3, I was able to pick up The Household Handbook: Everything You Need to Know for a Safe, Smooth-Running Home. Originally $19.95, I got this beauty for $3. 250 pages of useful stuff to know about taking care of a house.

My sons got really nervous Saturday since I would read a section, look up at them, and make a note on the calendar. Oh, boys…. I have a little project for you. I wish I had a daughter to instill the love of tools.