Monkey Puzzle or Where’s My Mom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is full of delights for young children. You will find Julia Donaldson’s brilliant rhymes and Axel Scheffler’s wonderful illustrations along with repetition, clues, jungle animals and a great big hug. We have read it over and over again and never tire of it. If you don’t own a copy it is a great addition to your bookshelves at this time of year as Mother’s Day approaches and it is also a fantastic story to read in the Spring as an introduction to the lifecycle of a butterfly.
The story begins with a little monkey, alone and lost in the jungle. This little monkey has lost his mum.
Fortunately the little monkey isn’t alone for long. A well-meaning and friendly Butterfly appears and comforts him, then they set out to find the little monkey’s mum, together. Poor Butterfly keeps finding animals that fit the little monkey’s description but they aren’t quite right.
Elephant might be bigger than the little monkey and the snake might coil around trees but they are not the little monkey’s mum. The spider has more legs than a snake and the parrot lives in the treetops but neither of them fit the bill either. Before you turn the page there is always a clue as to which animal is next, so as you read you can guess what’s coming up next. Each time Butterfly gets it wrong the little monkey chimes “No, no, no!” and this repetition is quickly picked up by little ones.
Eventually the little monkey becomes exasperated with Butterfly. Why does she keep getting the wrong animals? Then, the penny drops. The little monkey never gives Butterfly the key information - the little monkey’s mum looks like he does! This seems obvious to the little monkey but it isn’t to Butterfly because none of her babies looks like she does: her babies are caterpillars!
Once the misunderstanding is ironed out Butterfly is more successful and they find Dad and finally Mum!
The story is wonderful to read and enjoy simply as it is, or if you want to use the book to inspire some conversation I have always found Burt is quite happy to talk about the friendly characters that Axel Scheffler brings to life in the illustrations. You could use the story to talk about different animals, introduce some mathematics by counting each animals’ legs or do some biology and talk about metamorphosis and the lifecycle of a butterfly. You could also explore language together by describing each other or thinking of a better description for little monkey’s mum.
You could also read the story before a trip or a holiday to discuss with a young child what they should do if they ever do become lost (not a comfortable idea to entertain but it is certainly an important subject to discuss if you feel your little one is old enough).
Here are some ideas or questions that you might want to use to start a discussion in your family. You know your family and which questions they are ready to tackle now and which can be left for another day:
- How would you describe little monkey’s mum so that Butterfly could find her easily?
- How would you describe your Mum?
- Why doesn’t Butterfly understand that the little monkey’s Mum looks like her?
- What do Butterfly’s babies look like?
- How does a caterpillar change into a butterfly?
Crafts and activities for kids
Monkey Puzzle is a cleverly crafted sequence of meetings and you will be surprised how quickly children can pick up the order of the encounters with each animal. Learning to put together and remember a sequence is an important skill and helps children to develop their own abilities to tell stories and recount events. We made a felt board so that Burt could act out the story as we read it and then play with the characters and retell the story in his own words.
Have a look at the Pinterest Board full of crafts and activities for kids….
or take a look at these activities to accompany reading the book:
- Read and Create Monkey Puzzle Felt Board
- Fantastic Fun and Learning Monkey Puzzle Story Basket
- Teaching Ideas Book Activities
- Nurture Store Glitter Butterflies
- Red Ted Art How to Make a Sock Monkey
- Red Ted Art Handprint Monkey
- Science Sparks Butterfly Lifecycle Cocoon Activity
- Domestic Goddesque How to Make Monkey Bread
What have you been reading this week?