Joanna's Reviews > That's Not My Monkey...

That's Not My Monkey... by Fiona Watt
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's review
Dec 08, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 100-books-2010
Read in December, 2010

** spoiler alert ** This book is a suspenseful page turner. It had me hooked from the opening title page, featuring the adorable monkey with too-soft ears. Each page features a different monkey, which is dismissed as "not my monkey" by the narrator. I was drawn into the mystery of whether the unnamed protagonist would ever find the desired monkey, in the midst of all these sinister imposters. Fortunately, the hero of the story is discerning enough to check the various feet, tails, and tongues of the not-my monkeys, discovering each to be too smooth, or rough, or fuzzy to be credible. And, as the book is in fact designed for babies, it does have a [spoiler alert!] happy ending, when the correct monkey (with the appropriately fluffy tummy) is located at last.

There are a number of questions which I feel the plot leaves unresolved, such as why all these monkeys are running amok in the first place. Can you even own a monkey, or are we, as readers, subtly endorsing an ethically questionable black market monkey trade? Why is there a small mouse in each picture? Is the tiny mouse the speaker who is engaging in this quest to find the lost monkey? And how did the main character get separated from the monkey in the first place? All these questions are asked, but never answered. In fairness, however, the book is targeted at the baby touchy-feely reader demographic, who may not have an issue with these omissions, or be willing to overlook them in order to fully inhabit the magical world of smooth-footed and fluffy-stomached primates that the author has created.

I feel that this book, while demonstrably for babies, is really a moral tale for our time. It charts the universal journey in search of that which is real, and encourages its young readers to actively distinguish tangible differences between that which is offered and that which is really desired or needed. It is teaches the virtues of loyalty and perseverance, as you do not just give up and settle for the third or fourth not-my-monkey that comes along.

Also, babies really like to drool and chew on books, moreso than read them, and this book seems very sturdy and hard wearing. I did not, myself, opt to chew on or drool on this copy as it is a gift, but I feel confident that babies would be find it satisfying. I mean, babies will put pretty much anything in their mouths, and this book is fun and cute with lots of bright colors. It is also big and blocky, so you do not need to worry about a baby eating the entire book, or trying to eat the entire book and then choking, as the book itself is much too large for that to be a possibility.

It is also laudable for its gender neutral appeal. Monkeys are presented as being equally accessible for all babies, whether boys or girls, so there is no fear of accidentally pushing the standards of the heteropatriarchy on the just recently born.

I remember reading "Pat the Bunny" when I was little, and this monkey book really shows how far touchy-feely books have come.

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message 1: by Tom (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tom Joanna, I share your enthusiasm for That's Not My Monkey. The narrator's patience and determination to find the right monkey is a existential quest for being/Dasein. However judging by your 'unresolved' questions, it seems that you are missing the point. Monkeys are societal responsibilities that are flung about incessantly with haste and disregard. It is crucial to not accept every monkey that They (mainstream popular culture) fling at you, and it is laudable that this book highlights the importance of patient discernment and the unique fate of MY monkey.

This book teaches that when you go into a corporate workplace, be ready to say, ‘That’s not my monkey.’ Have it on the tip of your tongue, because as soon as you walk in the door, monkeys are flying through the air. They are flung and leap on your back and won’t let go no matter how hard you work to get rid of them. It’s one big monkey fight. Those that are the most successful are the ones who most skilled at getting rid of monkeys, flinging monkeys with accuracy and strength. The further you throw it, the less likely it is to find its way back to you. Always try to leave work with fewer monkeys than when you started.

The hardest part is knowing when someone is throwing a monkey at you. You have to recognize it and get rid of it as soon as possible. The longer you have it, the harder it is to get rid of. It gets a hold of you, pulling at your hair and poking you in the eye with its tiny fingers. When colleagues witness your struggle, they have pity and think, ‘I’m sure glad that’s not my monkey.’ Then it is yours, and no one else will accept it as their own. You must remain calm and collected, and pick a flustered individual, probably who has too many monkeys, and ask them with firm courtesy to keep an eye on it for a bit. It’s not your monkey, you just found it causing trouble and someone needs to take care of it immediately.

Those with the fewest monkeys are calm, collected and they are always ready with a smart offence. Without monkeys biting and clawing on their shoulder, you can relax and keep stress low. Those people are destined for upper management. The delegate with efficiency and authority. No one questions the monkeys they pass along. They have much bigger and fiercer monkeys to deal with, which are talked about often but are never seen.

The problem I have with this book (judging solely by your review - I accept fault for not reading the text) is that it does not address the potential for corporate irresponsibility. Rather than searching for the ‘right monkey,’ institutional behaviour is to avoid all monkeys. This is why we are in an economic crisis. People need to search for the monkey that’s right for them, the monkey with the soft tummy, rather than rejecting all monkeys.

Everyone has their own unique potential for existence: my right monkey will be different from yours. The book addresses this in that there is a deliberate search for a specific monkey in the possessive (my). However, what makes YOUR monkey different from MY monkey? The soft tummy. Why is this important to the narrator? Here lies the problem with the book. It offers no solution to the reader, who may or may not be a baby. Saying that all babies like soft tummies is a stereotype that limits potential for babies in existence. Each baby should choose a monkey based on their potential and ultimately their fate. The authors avoidance to address individual fate is hypocritical, as she seems to be passing the monkey.

It’s a monkey fight out there, and we have to be careful not to become monkeys ourselves. I love this review!

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