Amazon Editors recommend this book for readers who enjoy chapter books with more complexity or entry-level middle grade novels.
Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet and his wife, Elspeth Graham, team up for a captivating, lushly illustrated tale evoking a Chinese legend. (Age 4 and up)
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Tashi lives in a tiny village at the foot of the mountains, below the tea plantations where her mother works. When her mother falls ill, Tashi goes alone to the plantation, hoping to earn money for the doctor. But she is far too small to harvest the tender shoots, and her clumsy efforts anger the cruel Overseer. She is desolate, until -- chack-chack-chack! -- something extraordinary happens. Inspired by a centuries-old legend of tea-picking monkeys, here is a richly told tale full of vivid characters: the heartless Overseer, the enigmatic Royal Tea Taster, and -- far away -- an empress with a penchant for tea.
Kindergarten-Grade 3—Tashi''s mother labors on a tea plantation in the shadow of the Himalayas. One day she is too ill to get out of bed. Tashi knows that without her day''s wages, they won''t have money for a doctor, but without medical care her mother won''t get well enough to work. "The problem went around and around. It was like a snake with its tail in its mouth, and Tashi was frightened by it." The child tries to pick tea herself, but she is too small to reach the tops of the plants where the tender new leaves grow. She retreats in tears, only to be comforted by a troop of monkeys she has befriended. And then the magical element of the story emerges: the monkeys climb into the mountains and pick the rarest and most sought-after tea leaves in the world. The Royal Tea Taster samples the leaves in Tashi''s basket and pays her a handsome sum, with the promise of more in the future. This story, inspired by tales of tea-picking monkeys of the Himalayas, would be merely pleasant were it not for Wijngaard''s expressive, richly detailed ink-and-gouache illustrations. Tashi''s solemn face as she comforts her bedridden mother, the dynamic depictions of the Tea Taster swishing tea and spitting out a mouthful, the play of light through the branches under which the monkeys eat fruit, and even the delicate tracery of a decorative pattern on the bottom of each page all contribute to the thoughtful bookmaking.—
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Taking cues from Chinese legend, husband-and-wife team of Peet and Graham create a unique story set in an unspecified past. Tashi, a young girl, walks with her mother every morning to the tea plantation. While her mother and other women pick tea leaves under the scrutiny of a slimy overseer, Tashi heads off to share fruit with a group of feisty monkeys. When her mother becomes too ill to work, Tashi attempts to fill her shoes, but gets laughed off the field by the overseer. Distraught and worried there will be no money to pay for a doctor, she retreats to her secret spot. The monkeys snatch up her tea basket and disappear up into the mountain mists, returning with a basketful of nearly glowing tea. When the Royal Tea Taster appears, he nearly swoons over the rare tea in Tashi’s basket and pays her handsomely for the bounty. The tale has the feel of a time-honed fable—simple, elegant, and moving—which is especially well complemented by Wijngaard’s sumptuous illustrations. Grades 2-4. --Ian Chipman
The poetic text is vividly descriptive. . . . The deftly spun, emotionally resonant fairy-tale story … begs to be read aloud. No design detail is overlooked, from the gorgeous cover (and its glossy, raised, curling, monkey-shaped tea steam) forward.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Husband and wife team
Mal Peet (1947–2015) and
Elspeth Graham wrote four books together:
Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, Night Sky Dragons and
The Treasure of Pirate Frank. Mal Peet also authored several YA novels, including the Carnegie Medal–winning novel
Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book
Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels:
Keeper, The Penalty, and
Juan Wijngaard has illustrated more than thirty books for children, including
Shakespeare’s Globe: An Interactive Pop-up Theatre and the Kate Greenaway Medal–winning
Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady. He lives in New Mexico.