The Magic of FOURTEEN MONKEYS, A Rain Forest Rhyme

Wondering about my use of the word magic? Well, any book that instantly silences two little boys, 6 and 4, who then pore over every page as I read aloud, repeatedly insisting that I stop to let them study the details of EVERY spread, is magic to me.

The gist of FOURTEEN MONKEYS, A Rain Forest Rhyme (Melissa Stewart/illus. Steve Jenkins, Beach Lane Books) is that fourteen species of monkeys, while different in many ways, all live in harmony in one Peruvian forest, Manu. How is this book brilliant?

  1. The main text is written in simple rhyming text that appeals to and is appropriate for younger listeners (or beginning readers).
  2. Each spread features one monkey species behaving like their kind does, often in action, sometimes sitting with others. You know, being monkeys. Since the first spread featured red howlers, I pulled out my phone and found a YouTube video so the boys could hear red howlers in action. Oh, did they ever LOVE that (as did I. Take a listen; you’ll get it.

3. Each spread has text aimed at older readers that relays more info–fascinating facts that the 6-year-old enjoyed a lot, Wild Kratts-loving animal nut that he is.

4. There’s a small inset on each spread that shows at which level of the rain forest this particular monkey lives. The 4-year-old zeroed in on that and had to flip back and forth numerous times to see which ones overlapped a bit, exactly how far some were from others, etc.

5. The art, as you can see, is dazzling. The entire book is just designed so beautifully and in a way that invites the next page turn.

At the end of this beauty, readers/listeners are rewarded with fabulous back matter consisting of a full-page vertical shot that shows rain forest layers and silhouettes of each monkey, all on the same group of trees, to get the full effect. PLUS more about each species, about monkeys in general, and an inset map of Peru that shows where Manu is located. A bibliography, sources for further reading …

You just have to see this one. Highly recommended!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum is the author of more than 50 children's books. Recent picture books include JACK KNIGHT'S BRAVE FLIGHT (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection), HOW TO GROW A DINOSAUR, WHERE'D MY JO GO?, FROG BOOTS, and WE LOVE BABIES! She is also the author of a graphic early reader series, Thunder & Cluck (another Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection). In addition, she has authored two dozen nonfiction series books for Nat Geo Kids, including several titles in the immensely popular LITTLE KIDS BIG BOOK OF–– series. Next year brings her first humorous informational fiction pb, STINKBIRD HAS A SUPERPOWER. Lots more books are on the way! For more information about Jill and her books, visit her website at


  1. What a fantastic book! And you’ve supremely put it to the kid test! Love the howler video!!

  2. Isn’t that the coolest thing, Beth? Sort of an amplified lonnnnng, slo-mo burp.

  3. Thanks for the brilliant list of brilliance.Putting this book on my TBR list. (And that howler video had me smiling–can imagine the laughs of listening with a 4 and 6 yo! )

  4. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    I love this book!

  5. Great post! I admire this book, too. It’s so interesting how many levels it works on. I enjoyed hearing how the 4- and 6-year old engaged with it!

  6. I love monkeys! And to have a book about the different types. Really fun! Thanks for showcasing this, Jill.

  7. I love this book. I cannot wait to get it. I wish text books were this interesting.

  8. It’s interesting to break up the rhyme like that! I would have assumed that would be a bad idea–but with each spread being about a different kind of monkey, in this case, I can see how it really works. And I’m sure the detail makes it a fun read to budding naturalists like you were reading with! 🙂

  9. Definitely a great mentor text! It appeals to many different age groups including adults! Love the howlers/burpers!

  10. I watched the video on you tube and it’s fascinating to hear and listen to their howls. They sure can howl. They’re amazing animals.

  11. It looks amazing!! Can’t wait to read it!

  12. Kudos to Melissa and Steven! I can’t wait to read this bookQ

  13. Jilanne F Hoffmann

    I love this book so much, it’s part of my permanent collection. I think the book design is nothing short of brilliant, and will be using it as a mentor text for an R&R I’ll be working on soon.

  14. I knew you’d love this book. It’s genius!

  15. Mercy! What a gorgeous book that appeals to kids AND adults.

  16. I love the illustrations. The book would make a great gift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *