Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham

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Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Beautiful, traditionally illustrated folk tale about a little girl's friendship with some helpful monkeys.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 56 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406300925

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Tashi and her mother live below a tea plantation in India. Usually Tashi goes along with her mum, and whilst mum picks tea leaves with the other women, Tashi sits under a tree and plays with a group of monkeys, sharing her fruit with them, allowing them to groom her and playing with the little baby monkeys. One morning, Tashi's mum is too poorly to go to work, so Tashi struggles with the big tea basket herself. The plantation owner derides her, saying she is too little to pick the tea, and Tashi is worried about how she and her mother will cope with no money to get her mum a doctor, or to buy food. She shares her worries with her monkey friends and somehow, at the end of the day, Tashi's basket is full of beautiful, fresh, fragrant tea leaves that are a very rare type of tea called 'Cloud Tea'.

It just so happens that when Tashi returns with her tea there is a strange man there, the Royal Tea Taster. He dismisses all the other baskets of tea as being just 'ordinary' but then something makes him stop next to Tashi, and when he tastes the tea in her basket he tells her it is extremely rare. Everyone is mystified as to how and where Tashi found this tea as it can only be found at the very tops of the mountains, in hard to reach places. The Royal tea taster asks where she got it, but Tashi doesn't tell him. He buys the tea from her for many gold coins and says that he will return every year to buy another basket, thereby guaranteeing her family a steady income. Tashi is able to use the gold to get a doctor for her mother, and also to buy a lot of fruit for her monkey friends (because, as I'm sure you've figured out by now, it's the monkeys who collected the tea leaves for her!)

The story itself is beautifully described, but I think it's the illustrations (by Juan Wijngaard) that really bring the tale to life. They are quite traditional in style. So many children's books now use cartoon-style illustrations, but each of these is almost a work of art, with lavish colours and wonderful details. Tashi herself, and the beautiful mountains she lives in, really capture your imagination, as well as her monkey friends of course. There is also a nice four-panel picture, just in pencil, of when Tashi meets the royal tea taster and in the picture he is swilling the Cloud Tea around in his mouth, sucking in air like a wine taster, but my favourite picture I think is of Tashi and her mother enjoying their own cups of Cloud Tea, looking out over the mountains at the end of the story.

I thought this was a lovely little story, showing the rewards Tashi receives for her kindness to the monkeys, and it's refreshing to read a traditional folk tale that I think will give pleasure to both young and old alike. Although it's rather too long for me to read to my three-year-old at bedtime just yet I'm sure that in a couple of years it will become a favourite of ours.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Slightly younger children can't go wrong with my own childhood bedtime favourite The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr or for those a little bit older who still love great stories with pictures then try The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. You might also appreciate Monkey's Surprise (Animals of the Rain Forest) by Various.

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Buy Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham at


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