Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet and his wife, Elspeth Graham, team up for a captivating, lushly illustrated tale evoking a Chinese legend.
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.
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Husband and wife team Mal Peet (1947–2015) and Elspeth Graham wrote three books together: Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, and Night Sky Dragons. Mal Peet also authored several YA novels, including the Carnegie Medal–winning novel Tamar, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels: Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure.
Juan Wijngaard has illustrated more than thirty books for children, including SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE: AN INTERACTICE POP-UP THEATRE and the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning SIR GAWAIN AND THE LOATHLY LADY. He lives in New Mexico.
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
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