cover image The Monkey Bridge

The Monkey Bridge

Rafe Martin, Fahimeh Amiri. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88106-3

In this retelling of a traditional Buddhist tale, a greedy, insensitive king learns true leadership from a wise monkey, one of the incarnations of the Buddha. A tribe of monkeys lives in a remote tree with fruit so sumptuous and so fragrant that the Monkey King fears it will bring trouble. Indeed, the king of Benares discovers one of its fallen fruits downriver and then fixes on finding ""his"" tree. But when his subjects draw their arrows on the monkeys, he is stunned to see the Monkey King risking his life by stretching out his long body to make an escape bridge for his tribe. On the whole ripe with atmosphere, Martin's (Mysterious Tales of Japan) prose and dialogue grow a bit didactic: ""It is my love for [my tribe] and my desire to help and protect them that makes me king,"" the monkey tells the human king. Amiri's (Babri) paintings with bright colors of watercolor and gouache, clean lines and stylized motifs resembling Persian miniatures place the story in its mythical context. The tale's moral agenda does not overpower its considerable appeal, thanks to the strong writing and the vivid paintings that are both decorative and dynamic, swarming with the Monkey King's playful and devoted subjects. Ages 4-7. (May)