How many of you have gone to the zoo and looked at an animal and had them start to go crazy?
Do they start jumping around and screaming? Or maybe you and the animal make eye contact and they just walk away like they could care less that you are standing there! In this great non-fiction story called Never Smile At A Monkey, by Steve Jenkins, he tells us what we should and shouldn’t do to animals if we encounter them.
My first impression of this book was that it was a little scary.
You have a giant monkey face staring at you on the cover, and he looks a little scary. But after skimming through the book, it didn’t look so bad. You start the story with a bird looking at you. At first I thought it was an ostrich, but later in the story we find out it is actually a cassowary. A cassowary is a flightless bird that stands as tall as a man! Jenkins turns each animal he introduces into an alliteration. For example, “never pet a platypus,” and “never cuddle a cub.” Jenkins talks about common animals like the hippo, cone shell, kangaroo, and monkey. But he also talks about animals that I had never heard of like the blue-ringed octopus, electric caterpillar, tang, and spitting cobra.
Jenkins adds a short paragraph about what not to do, and why to do so would be dangerous, for each animal.
By understanding the ways animals project their emotions, we can better protect ourselves.
We can also better understand how these animals are similar to us. When we project an image of animals as creatures with emotions similar to our own, we begin to see animals as no different from ourselves, allowing for an air of compassion in how we deal with them. There’s also an illustrated section at the end of the book that gives more in-depth information about each animal described in the book. This is followed by a short list of books for further reading.
Jenkins does an amazing job of creating the illustrations out of torn paper collage, using paper and layering it to reveal texture and create illusions of animals that almost come off the page. By creating semi-realistic images, Jenkins plays with the quirkiness of the book’s content, often using such collage techniques to employ pictorial messages within his stories.
I recommend this book for ages 6-9, since the images are a little intense for the younger age group. The sentence structure is simple for the younger kids to understand and there aren’t more than 4-5 sentences in each paragraph about the animals. Jenkins’s torn paper collages make the images stand out and are very eye catching to kids.
Other great non-fiction stories for kids are: Biggest, Strongest, Fastest; Actual Size; and What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?, all by Steve Jenkins. These books have the same torn paper collage illustrations and are all about animals!