Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Monkey Puzzle

Author                             : Julia Donaldson
Illustrations by                   : Axel Scheffler
Age range recommended : 3 – 8 years
Theme                             : Rhymes, Humour

I don't really think Julia Donaldson has to be introduced to any of us. She is a magical story teller, someone who knows her little readers very well and knows exactly the stories to tell and the entertaining way in which to tell them. She is a British playwright, song-writer and even a performer. 120 of her 184 published works are intended for school use, including her phonic reader scheme.

She started off as a song-writer and used to busk (street performances) in various places after which she regularly started composing songs for various performers and children's plays. Her major breakthrough came with 'The Gruffalo', an endearing children's picture book which was an immediate success and won a great many awards. She went on to write many more beautiful books for children. Her books, in partnership with illusrator Axel Scheffler, are the most popular and favourites with children.

We, at the cocoon, are huge fans of this author and have read a great many books of hers'. 'The Gruffalo' remains our absolute, anytime favourite.

Here, we look at another gem from her collection, 'Monkey Puzzle'.

Opening lines –  
“I’ve lost my mum!”

“Hush, little monkey, don’t you cry. I’ll help you find her,” said Butterfly. 

Lets have a think. How big is she?

“She’s big!” said the monkey. “Bigger than me”.

Introduction and Synopsis –
A little monkey has lost his mum. A butterfly offers to help in the search. When asked how his mum looks, little monkey says that she is big so the butterfly leads him to an elephant. When said that she's furry, butterfly leads him to a bat. The butterfly takes the monkey across the forest showing him one creature after another based on the baby’s description of his mother – except he does not take him to a monkey. The little monkey finally gets exasperated with the obvious mistake that the butterfly is making. But, why is the butterfly behaving so? Is it mocking the monkey in his problem situation…. or is there something that the butterfly doesn’t really know about monkeys?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
An absolute delight, a gem of a book from the Julia – Axel dream team, as expected. Julia's background as a song-writer before she started writing children’s books is quite evident in her writing style. It is effortless, soft and fluid. Combined with the vibrant illustrations of Alex Scheffler, this book does full justice in entertaining the young reader/listener with the funny lines that bring about the miscommunication between the two characters. There is the beauty of nature (or science, if you may call it so) so beautifully captured in the essence of the story. Again, the beautiful rhymes are the charming feature of this book – “Butterfly, butterfly, can’t you see? None of these creatures looks like me!” :-)

My little one loved the poor little monkey at first sight. She doubled with laughter at every turn of the page, amused with the butterfly’s silly imagination. She loved the book so much she gave a full detailed retelling to her dad the same day! It has great descriptions of different animals which help keep the child engaged in guessing the butterfly’s analogy of the monkey’s description of his mum. And of course, the endearing and very logical (to the butterfly, that is) explanation for the butterfly’s misinterpretation brought a dear smile to her glowing face.

Online link -
We found this delightful video of the story here. Enjoy!

The cocoon rates it -


A must-have in your collection for the sheer simplicity of the story. 
And a simple but profound message to reach across to you and your child’s young mind – Different people can have different perspectives about the same person/thing/place based on what they imagine or experience. And each of those people would be right from where they look at it! 


  1. Simple story and brilliantly colored illustrations that any kid would love. I love them and I'm not a kid.

  2. So true. I love the way they use fun characters to get across an important issue. It makes you wonder how much of the way we think today was formed by stories we read as a child.

  3. Have this book in the library, but we never read it. Will hunt for it tomorrow. Excellent review as usual)

  4. Julia s works are magical right? Her rhyming text, clever stories and the illustrators on her books enhance that magic so well. Axel and her rock ! We love all her works.