Lucky Monkey, Unlucky Monkey

James Kaczman, Author . Houghton $16 (28p) ISBN 978-0-618-63153-7

At first glance, Ed and Ted seem cut from the same cloth: they are both “thinking, speaking, fully clothed, house-dwelling monkeys.” But Ed is a lucky monkey. When he meets a strange dog, it is friendly and playful; when he finds a treasure chest in the woods, an elf praises him. Ted, however, is unlucky. The dog he encounters chases him right into a gang of even fiercer animals, and a violent troll accuses him of stealing his treasure chest, forcing Ted to take refuge in a swamp. Kaczman’s (A Bird and His Worm ) acrylic paintings, set up as pairs of tableaux—one idyllic, the other gloomy—feature nattily attired animals and give the book the feel of a wry, winking primer. At the bottom of several pages, woodland creatures offer such reality-check observations as: “In children’s stories, elves often live in mushrooms.... This does not quite make sense if one thinks about it. A mushroom would actually be a rather unpleasant place to live, because mushrooms are damp and mushy inside.” By mirroring each monkey’s adventures in both text and art, Kaczman plays up the contrast as the monkeys’ fortunes continue to diverge over the course of the day. An epilogue reveals luck’s fleeting nature by switching the monkeys’ fates the following morning. A well-executed exercise in irony, this seems better aimed to hipster parents than to kids. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Children's
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