What You Need to Know:|
• The story is based on an ancient legend about tea-picking monkeys.
• This book was a Junior Library Guild selection.
• When the mother in the story becomes ill, it causes concern about the family’s future.
• There is a magical quality to the story.
• Click here
for an interview with the authors.
Cloud Tea Monkeys transports readers to another time and place, and leaves them feeling happy and content in the end. The reader is introduced to young Tashi, as she observes the early morning rituals in her village. The fire is lit, the tea is made and the chatty women, including Tashi, begin their long walk to the tea plantation. There, while the women work hard under the heat of the sun and the eye of the harsh overseer, Tashi spends time with the local monkeys. She is generous and considerate of them, and because of that, they come to trust her. Tashi's age is never stated but she look around 7 or 8 years old in the pictures. When Tashi’s mother becomes sick, and the women are too afraid of the overseer to help her, the monkeys return her kindness and come to her rescue. They share with her a magical gift that changes her life forever.
The descriptive language, such as, “...tea bushes curved into the distance like waves” is vivid and graceful. The story also raises some interesting concepts to think about, like what it would be like to be financially responsible for your family and how it would feel to have to work under such severe conditions. According to the authors’ note in the back, the story was inspired by tea-picking stories from the Himalayans and the idea that many of the products we take for granted today were once scarce and treasured items. As it addresses some serious ideas, especially for a picture book, and as it is comprised of word-filled pages, this story may be better read aloud to younger readers. One thing I did find curious is that the only men in the story, other than a reference to jokes made about the husbands, are the mean overseer and the imperious tea taster. Maybe that was intentional to highlight the important role these women play in their community. Lastly, although the illustrations are vibrant, expressive and beautifully detailed, I did find some of the faces to be somewhat menacing and even creepy. The book cover is exceptionally beautiful, drawing readers in with its air of mystery and suggestion of international flavor.
Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham
2010, 56 pages
Animals, Ethnicity/Culture, Folk Tales/Fables, Poverty
• Why do the monkeys help Tashi?
• Why are the women afraid of the Overseer?
• Do you think the women have another choice as to where to work?
• When and where do you think this story takes place?
• Do you think there is such a thing as Cloud Tea?
• Would you like to live where Tashi lives?
• How is Tashi’s world different from yours?
• What makes Cloud Monkey Tea so special?
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