Home > Book Reviews, Mock Caldecott 2011 > Cloud Tea Monkeys written by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham; Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard

Cloud Tea Monkeys written by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham; Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard

Publication Date: February 23, 2010

Reviewed For: K – 3

Journal Review / Summary
Tashi’s mother labors on a tea plantation in the shadow of the Himalayas. One day she is too ill to get out of bed. Tashi knows that without her day’s wages, they won’t have money for a doctor, but without medical care her mother won’t get well enough to work. “The problem went around and around. It was like a snake with its tail in its mouth, and Tashi was frightened by it.” The child tries to pick tea herself, but she is too small to reach the tops of the plants where the tender new leaves grow. She retreats in tears, only to be comforted by a troop of monkeys she has befriended. And then the magical element of the story emerges: the monkeys climb into the mountains and pick the rarest and most sought-after tea leaves in the world. The Royal Tea Taster samples the leaves in Tashi’s basket and pays her a handsome sum, with the promise of more in the future. This story, inspired by tales of tea-picking monkeys of the Himalayas, would be merely pleasant were it not for Wijngaard’s expressive, richly detailed ink-and-gouache illustrations. Tashi’s solemn face as she comforts her bedridden mother, the dynamic depictions of the Tea Taster swishing tea and spitting out a mouthful, the play of light through the branches under which the monkeys eat fruit, and even the delicate tracery of a decorative pattern on the bottom of each page all contribute to the thoughtful bookmaking. – SLJ

Illustration Medium: ink and gouache.

Execution in the artistic technique employed:
The technique certainly looks beautiful.

Appropriateness of style of illustration to story, theme, and concept:
The illustration style doesn’t seem to me to particularly enhance the story at all.

Delineation/interpretation of a plot through illustration:
Plot carries the illustration – the illustration often doesn’t even reflect what the words are saying – particularly evident to me on the page where the monkeys are running through the jungle – the illustration doesn’t describe everything the text does.

Delineation/interpretation of a theme or concept through illustration:
Somewhat hopeful and imaginative… but not in a Caldecott worthy way.

Delineation of characters through illustration:
Unimpressive.

Delineation of setting through illustration:
Beautiful scenes.

Delineation of mood through illustration:
Mood doesn’t really change based on the illustration.

Delineation of information through illustration:
N/A.

Additional Things I Liked:
I really like the title page.

Concluding Caldecott Thoughts:
No, probably not.

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