Higby, The Average Monkey has an important message - and even if the delivery isn't quite as snazzy as you might like, it's a book worth reading to your child repeatedly.
Written and illustrated by comic book artist Todd Aaron Smith, we meet this picture book's hero, a monkey named Higby, in a zoo. Higby longs to be important. He wants to make a difference. As a little girl stops by his cage and says how cute he is, Higby thinks that most of all, he wants to be something more than "common." So when a zoo worker accidentally leaves his cage unlocked, Higby seizes the opportunity to go out in the world. "Maybe now I can be important," he thinks.
On his way out the zoo, a snobby giraffe stops Higby and asks where he thinks he's going. When Higby answers that he's going out to go do something important, the giraffe sneers. "What can you do?" he says, "You're just an average monkey." But despite the giraffe's unkind words, Higby leaves the zoo, sure he can find some way to make a difference in people's lives.
He tries directing traffic (but only creates a huge accident), driving a bus (but he crashes into the museum's fountain), and playing baseball. He figures baseball players must be especially important because the huge crowd at the stadium seems to love them. But soon the fans are shouting Higby right out of the ballpark. Dejected, Higby returns to his cage in the zoo. Higby thinks, "The giraffe was right...I'm just an average monkey." Just then, the little girl who thought he was so cute earlier in the day reappears. She's carrying a stuffed monkey. "You are my favorite animal in the whole zoo," she says. "I can't wait to take [my stuffed monkey] to school and show all of my friends."
Higby has an epiphany. He realizes
"He had made the little girl happy. He had made a difference. He had been important the whole time! He didn't need to be a police officer or a bus driver or a famous ballplayer. All he had to do was be himself! 'Maybe there is no such thing as an average monkey,' Higby thought. 'Maybe God really does make each and every person special in his or her own special way!...I'm special - just because I'm Higby.'"
What I Like: The message is terrific, and the story, overall is pretty engaging for young children.
What I Dislike: The illustrations in this book leave me cold. They are comic book style, but come across as sterile, somehow. The text could also be pared down quite a bit, creating a stronger story. And the overuse of exclamation points is annoying to me. Still, even with these faults, the book tells an important message in a clear and entertaining fashion.
Overall Rating: Good.
Age Appeal: 3 -7.
Publishing Info: Barbour Publishing, 2003; ISBN: 1586608576; hard back, $5.95.
Special Info:Please click here to read our reviews of other parable books by Todd Aaron Smith.