May 5, 2011
Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham
When I saw the write up of Cloud Tea Monkeys, I was immediately pulled in by the cover. The steam curling into magical monkeys.
Fortunately, I found the story just as captivating.
Tashi and her mother live in the Himalayas. Her mother makes a living picking tea. Each morning Tashi and her mother and the other women, carrying large tea baskets, make their way to the far off tea plantation. There, every day, the Overseer tells the women how to do their jobs — jobs they understand completely. When the monkeys swarm down the mountain, Tashi stops working. She makes her way to a jumble of rocks shaded by a tree where she shares her meager lunch with the baby monkeys.
One day, Tashi’s mother is sick and must stay home. Without her income, they can’t pay for the doctor. Without the doctor, she will not get well and return to work.
Tashi drags the basket to the plantation where she tries to take her mother’s place. The Overseer kicks over her basket and leaves the girl in tears. Fortunately, someone else, someone much more sympathetic is watching and the tea filling Tashi’s basket is the marvelous, magical Cloud Tea.
Fine details and deep colors combine to create illustrations that are just as rich and magnificent as the story itself. Wijngaard has also done a marvelous job capturing a wide variety of facial expressions, especially those of the Royal Tea Taster who may first seem imposing but is a deep and nuanced character.
An excellent gift for tea lovers, animal lovers or simply someone who likes a tale with a touch of magic and mystery.