Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin is hilarious, brilliant and a true gift to beginning readers and anyone who loves an illustrated book. At 192 pages, with an index and a (tongue-in-cheek) bibliography as well as a key to the illustrations, Baby Monkey, Private Eye is completely entertaining and endearing.
I HAD to know how this book came to be and, after reading a few less than interesting reviews and interviews in industry publications, I stumbled across an interview in my (and Selznick and Serlin's part-time) hometown newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune. Selznick revealed that, while talking with his editor at Scholastic, Tracy Mack, about his next project after The Marvels, she gently suggested that his readers (and she) might like a break from another giant novel. This is when Selznick dropped Baby Monkey, Private Eye on his editor. As Selznick says in the interview, "David (Serlin, his husband, and a professor of communication at UCSD) and I have for many, many years just joked about a little baby monkey and what the funniest job for him would be." David goes on to say, "We would ask ourselves, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if he was able to solve some kind of detective story but not be able to climb over a wall? If it took him five minutes to figure out who did the crime but it took him an hour to climb a tree?'"
And that is exactly what Baby Monkey, Private Eye delivers! There are five chapters and each chapter has approximately 50 words. Older readers will enjoy poring over the first two-page illustration for each chapter in which we see Baby Monkey in his (noir-ish) office on the couch, reading a book (thus the bibliography - we need to know the the provenance of the books Baby Monkey is reading, as well as the art in his office). Through the frosted glass of his office door, a figure can be seen. A page turn reveals the victim and the crime! Baby Monkey is ready to look for clues, but first, he needs a snack. Then he has to put on his pants. And that is no easy task. . .
After he gets his pants on, he literally steps out the door of his office and solves the crime immediately. Every time. Each chapter ends with the jubilant, "Hooray for Baby Monkey!" There is one, adorable chapter that deviates from this rhythm, but I don't want to give it away. Trust me, though, readers will love it. In the interview, Selznick posited that there could be more Baby Monkey books in the future. As someone who is a huge fan of Selznick's work and the unique perspective and style he brings to kid's books, as well as someone (and elementary school librarian) who is constantly, almost desperately, looking for high interest, low reading level books, I dearly hope that there is more, much more, Baby Monkey to come, whatever career choice he makes!