Grumpy Monkey

Grumpy Monkey, by Suzanne Lang, Illustrated by Max Lang, Random House 2018

Grumpy Monkey is not this dynamic duo’s debut picture book, but it is – dun dun dun – another author-illustrator collaboration by a husband and wife team! (Since I started looking, these have just come out of the woodworks.) Not to mention this New York Times Bestseller is simply BRILLIANT.

Okay. First, here’s the publisher’s description: “A hilarious picture book about dealing with unexplained feelings…and the danger in suppressing them! Jim the chimpanzee is in a terrible mood for no good reason. His friends can’t understand it—how can he be in a bad mood when it’s SUCH a beautiful day? They encourage him not to hunch, to smile, and to do things that make THEM happy. But Jim can’t take all the advice…and has a BIT of a meltdown. Could it be that he just needs a day to feel grumpy? Suzanne and Max Lang bring hilarity and levity to this very important lesson. This picture book is an excellent case study in the dangers of putting on a happy face and demonstrates to kids that they are allowed to feel their feelings (though they should be careful of hurting others in the process!).”

That’s actually a really great description, and I agree with all of it. Here’s what else I love about this book:

The character’s name. This book is about a monkey named Jim Panzee. I don’t know where they came up with that name but it’s absolute perfection. Enough said.

The first two sentences. They are KILLER. If you’re looking for mentor texts for great first lines, definitely add this book to your list. It’s simple, memorable (my three year old had it memorized on the second or third reading), and somehow manages to introduce the main character, his personality, his problem, and the tone of the book in just two sentences. Brilliant I tell you.

The illustrations. I picked up this book because the front cover illustration is irresistible, and the rest of the book did not disappoint. Jim’s facial expressions and body language are delightfully funny throughout. I also love the use of colors. There’s a great spread at the end where the two friends are sitting on a branch facing away from the reader and the lighting (plus Norman’s bandaged bottom) just says it all.

The dialogue. I love the funny back and forth between the sunny jungle animals and grumpy Jim, building to the climax where Jim shouts, “I’M NOT GRUMPY!” Then he beats his chest, and storms off. (My kids love acting out that part.)

Last but not least, it has a lovely message which is cleverly hidden in a delightfully funny package. The message is this: It’s okay to be grumpy. You’ll feel better soon enough.

And that makes my Momma heart happy.

4 thoughts on “Grumpy Monkey

  1. Jim Panzee! I love that. Also, I appreciate a book with a message that doesn’t hit you over the head but is woven into the fabric of a good story. Putting it on my TBR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you get a chance to read this one, Laura? What did you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not yet, thanks for the reminder!


  2. What a terrific review. Your writing “voice” sings.

    Did we ever agree on a meeting time? My apologies — I’ve been revising When a Forest Burns which is good – and putting together a writing workshop. Good idea? Yes. Let’s try to meet after the writing workshop but before next year. Nancy

    First Laugh, Welcome Baby, created in collaboration with Rose Tahe (Dine’) and illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Dine’), Junior Library Guild Selection, Notable Social Studies Books, Southwest Picks of the Year, Reading the West Award, New York Public Library’s Best Books, Bank Street Best Books, 2018

    Soldier Sister, Fly Home, cover art by Shonto Begay, a Junior Library Guild selection, 2016;*starred review, Publisher’s Weekly, Scholastic Book Club

    Selected by Tuba City Library, Navajo Nation – a community all-read.
    Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo, Notable Book for a Global Society, finalist -Colorado Book of the Year
    Water Runs Through This Book, 2015, Sigurd Olson Best Nature Writing
    Coming in 2020 – I Will Dance by Simon and Schuster


    Liked by 1 person

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