Authors: Brian Selznick and David Serlin
Artist: Brian Selznick
Type: Fiction, comic
I read it: March 2018
I received a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.
While letting this blog evolve, I’ve wondered how young of a reading age I should review for. I read and review a lot of young adult, but most of those are the length of proper novels. And if length is the measuer, I’ve reviewed some pretty short pieces for the adult readership (Forest of Memory, Kindle singles). As far as comics/graphic novels go, those are always quick reads and some are also quite short (Marvels, The Arrival). I read a lot of picture books to my kids, but I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace to review each one, plus it would seem to change the face of the blog itself. Still, I’ve thought about how nice it would be to sing the praises of In the Night Kitchen, Grandmother Fish, The Going to Bed Book, or the large stack of peerless Dr. Seuss stories.
Then I got a copy of Baby Monkey, Private Eye, which is as thick as a regular hardcover and described on the jacket as “a winning new format that blends elements of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel.” I thought it might be one to chip away at with my four year-old, but when we cracked it open we realized we could read it all in one go. And he absolutely loved it.
The first pleasant surprise was hearing my son say the word “science” for the first time. I was describing what a magnifying glass is for, and he told me that he uses them in class sometimes at one of the science tables. (I’m still getting used to the fact that he has a life beyond the walls of our house. The mix of scariness and excitement can leave my brain immobilized.)
The book is split into proper chapters, each of which deals with five cases the monkey has to solve. After a client knocks on the baby detective’s door, the tiny detective’s final order of business before heading out to solve the case is to put his pants on. He does this with varying degrees of success, and my son was genuinely cracking up at some of the iterations. My young reader loved the repetitive nature of each chapter, which provides enough structure to be able to grasp the flow early on but also allows for small variations that reward paying attention. My son guessed two of the animal criminals based on their tracks, but the details of how the monkey’s office changed based on what was stolen went unnoticed. He also needed a little extra explanation from me about the ending.
We read the book three times that evening, and I’m sure I’ll risk getting sick of it soon. But I lucked out by winning a copy, because I likely wouldn’t have had it on my radar at all otherwise. I’ll backtrack and read the thicker Selznick books, and perhaps even consider reviewing the best of the best young kids’ books that I come across.