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"Rhymers will be readers."*
Monkey Puzzle - Julia Donaldson
Member Name: broxi3781
Monkey Puzzle - Julia Donaldson
Advantages: Very educational - but even more fun.
Disadvantages: None worthy of note.
I am well aware of the importance of listening to rhyme in the development of literacy. As many of you may know I have very strong beliefs about literacy, and my concern about literacy was one of my primary reasons to home educate. Like most parents, I do want the best for my children, and I am willing to make sacrifices to ensure this. And as far as I am concerned -reading the average nursery rhyme is a sacrifice - they are so boring. Granted there are a few good ones - but I always thought of those more as stories than rhymes - The Gingerbread Man - 5 Little Monkeys etc... and the infamous "remember the night you fell in the ***** is always popular here, but in general I do not like nursery rhymes. Mary Had a Little Lamb, Little Jack Horner, Wee Willie Winkle etc... just don't seem very exciting to me, and as much as tried to feign enthusiasm when reading these to my children - they never really took them either.
However, the ability to recognise rhyme is a critical step in learning to read, especially for those who use a phonetic approach. This quote can be found all over the Internet "Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they're 4 years old, they're usually among the best readers by the time they're 8". It originates with an Australian author Mem Fox in her book Reading Magic**. It is cited in paper after paper on children's literacy, but Mem Fox places the greatest importance on just reading to your children - and I do believe children respond better to books when adults are really enjoying them as well - when reading becomes a wonderful shared experience. So - I have made a point of seeking out books that rhyme - but I refuse to settle for any book that rhymes - it needs a good story. Julia Donaldson has a rare knack of getting the rhythm and rhyme just right, but she also also manages to weave a good story as well. This book is a delight to read while still preparing children for literacy by helping them learn to recognise rhyme.
My son discovered this at our local library. We weren't planning to check out books at the time - just donating a few, it is quite rare for our library to get new books in, and we'd already read everything that looked remotely worth reading, but this was displayed near the entrance to the library and caught his interest. After reading this once, I knew we had to have a copied and immediately ordered our own from Amazon. My son wanted to hear this over and over, insisting that we wouldn't be able to keep it long. I assured him we could keep until his own copy came, but he never seemed to quite believe it and for ages kept asking if he had to give his copy back. I believe he was 2 at the time - perhaps a bit younger.
Monkey Puzzle is about a little monkey who has lost his mother. Butterfly kindly offers to help and asks Little Monkey what she looks like. Each time Little Monkey gives a description, Butterfly finds an animal that matches those adjectives - but is nothing like Little Monkey's Mother. Each time monkey replies in with a rhyming verse. I would always pause when butterfly found an animal and ask my son - "Is that his Mommy?" to which I would get a delighted "No" - that's a frog" - or an elephant, a snake, a bat or other animal. Even though he is now 4, he still responds to each page the same way.
This really is a brilliant story that my son would get very involved in. The gentle rhyming verse made this a real pleasure to read and there is a lovely rhythm to the book. My sons always enjoyed searching for things in books too, so the search made this even more fun. The illustrations are bright and colourful and perfectly match the text, but the best part of all is the funny ending.
We've had this story for years now, and I had to go upstairs to get it for this review, as it has once again worked it's way into the book basket for the very favourite stories that are read quite frequently at bedtime. It may get forgotten about for a few weeks, but it always gets brought out again. Surprisingly, my son must remember picking this from the library because he asked me last week if we were not meant to give this back. I explained that we did give the library book back - years ago - and I bought this one just for him. He is 4 now and still gets quite a lot out of this book, and it was enjoyed by my oldest as well when we first bought it as he was only 5. He did get tired of hearing it 5 times in a row though. This is definitely one of those books I could recite in my sleep.
In addition to being a perfect read aloud story for younger children this book is a wonderful book to teach children about adjectives and descriptive words when they are older. We even had fun making up are own rhyming descriptions for our family. of course these aren't always terribly flattering, but it is good fun. The book would help babies and very young children learn the names of animals as well as a few features, and it shows rather amusingly how easy it can be to misunderstand a person - or a monkey's description. I'm sure most very young children will relate to this as every small child has times when the grownups around them appear as silly as the butterfly because they simply can not understand what he is trying to express. There seems to be a huge sense of relief when little monkey finally finds the right words to get his point across.
This is a story that lends itself to expression easily as well, and I have used this again to teach my oldest to read with expression. It's easy to express the monkey's frustration as he can't get his point across "No, no no! ". I also feel that using different voices and expression helps a young child really get into the story. Adding animal sounds an makeit even more fun. This is one of those books that just has so many different uses, and I believe is a wonderful resource to help a child develop phonological awareness and later literacy. But above all else - this story is fun. It is one of those wonderful books that makes story time magical and reading books like this is one of the great perks of parenthood. It's a perfect story to snuggle up with and end a busy day.
There really isn't much I could fault this book on I suppose one could point out that Macaws and elephants do not live on the same continent, and the bird referred to as a parrot here really is a Scarlett Macaw, but I don't feel this book is meant to be scientifically accurate - after all if it were - little monkey wouldn't have been searching any more after finding the huge constrictor type snake - he'd more likely be lunchr. But an older child could make a science exercise of this book by finding out where the different animals live.
My son says this book should get 5 stars because it is really good. That simplifies things - but he is right - this book is very good in more ways than one. I feel the bright colours, rhyming text and the overall story would make this suitable for very young children. As soon as a child becomes verbal they could answer "no" when asked if each animal is the mommy and I found my sons especially enjoyed this type of involvement in books near the 1 year age mark. I would recommend this book from perhaps 6 months up to 6 years. It is available from Amazon in a number of formats including paperback, hardback, board book and a book with CD set with prices ranging from £2.81 for a used copy and £3.50 for new to £5.81 for book, cd and audiobook new. I have no idea where the best offer at the top of this page at £15.81 comes in because i can not find any version this expensive myself. This is one of those books I really feel every child should own, and I only wish I had found it when my oldest was a baby - so we could have had more years of fun from it.
*Title quotation stolen from : UVU - Utah Valley University
**http:// www.memfox.net/ reading-magic-intro
http:// www.uvu.edu/ccrr/pdf/ RHYMERS%20 ARE%20READERS.pdf
Summary: One of Donaldson's best - and all of her books are good.