Title: Cloud Tea Monkeys
Author: Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham
Illustrator: Juan Wijngaard
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: human resources, natural resources, child labor, poverty, jobs, economic development
Review: Tashi lives with her mother, a tea picker, in a small village that lies in the shadows of the majestic Himalaya mountains. Tashi’s mother and the other women work long days on the tea plantation, ever under the watchful eyes of the bad-tempered Overseer. Although Tashi comes along, she is too young to pick tea and instead spends much of the time playing and snoozing in the shade with a group of friendly monkeys that regularly comes down from the mountain.
When her mother becomes gravely sick and cannot work, Tashi despairs that there is no money to pay for a doctor. Determined to earn the money herself, she manages to carry the heavy tea basket to the plantation, only to encounter the angry Overseer who mocks her attempt to pick tea. Even worse, after she retreats to her private spot in the shade, some of the adult monkeys grab the basket and run off with it toward the mountain. Although all seems lost, Tashi learns that small acts of kindness can be reciprocated in unusual and unexpected ways.
This book is absolutely superb. The unique story line captures a number of important themes in economics, including the vulnerability of the working poor and the incidence of child labor in developing countries. Stunning illustrations further add to the richness of Cloud Tea Monkeys, making this book as much of a treasure as the tea described within.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children