A monkey without fur counteracts the inevitable teasing with a variety of strategies in this effective children’s picture book.
Mookey is born as smooth as a human baby’s behind and grows into a hairless young monkey. Within his family, he is loved and protected, but when it’s time to go to school, Mookey must face the reality that he looks different.
Some of the other jungle animals stare, giggle, and call him names. At first, Mookey, embarrassed, tries to fit in, but his plans to make himself like all the other monkeys backfire, such as when he sweats through the school day in a stifling monkey costume.
Then Oslo Owl encourages Mookey to look at the situation from a new perspective: “You can’t solve your problems by changing who you are on the outside. Nor can you change others. But you can change what you do when someone teases you.” Mookey opens up about his problem to the more accepting animals he meets, and a hyena, giraffe, sloth, and gazelle recommend coping strategies that have worked for them: Make a joke, show the world your unique strengths, take a deep breath, and hang with the nice guys. As Mookey tries them out with success, he recaptures his sense of himself, makes new friends, and learns resilience.
Psychologist Heather S. Lonczak skillfully translates her expertise in socioemotional development for a young audience, and every child will benefit from Mookey’s journey to self-acceptance. Mookey takes charge of his own dilemma, while the adults in the story stay on the sidelines. He tries, he fails, he tries again. The author acknowledges that teasing never stops, but Mookey learns to live with it.
Although Claudia Varjotie’s landscape more closely resembles a suburban backyard than a jungle, the animals are colorful and expressive, and the pictures are engaging.
While not particularly inventive, this straightforward lesson in diverting cruelty with self-assurance packs a lot of practical ideas into an inspiring story.
Also available as a paperback.