What Makes a Lemur Listen?
Samuel Langley-Swain and Helen Panayi
This story of Maki, a little ring-tailed lemur living in the Madagascan rainforest, was inspired by the author’s experience of being the parent of a neurodiverse child who, like the protagonist in the book, struggles to listen, especially to instructions.
Fed up with his Mama’s seemingly endless instructions,
Maki ,who always thinks he knows better, decides to go it alone on a ‘big adventure’. No more rules and no having to listen to anyone are his expectations as he moves joyfully across the forest floor. His joy doesn’t last for come nightfall a realisation dawns: Maki is far from home and completely lost. Now, having refused to eat his breakfast, his tummy is rumbly and as the chilly wind blows through the branches, he misses his siblings’ snuggly warmth.
After a night spent alone and scared he wakes and hears a voice responding to his comment. A voice Maki puts down to his imagination; but then he hears further remarks as he looks for food and continues on his way.
Come nightfall once more, Maki stops again and curls up (on a branch so he thinks) but the voice continues and mentions something very long and scaly.
Just in the nick of time, Maki responds to the “Run!’ command he hears from a small rainbow coloured creature. Then from a safe hiding place he realises that the voice he’s been hearing all the while has been that of a savvy chameleon – Sofina – as she introduces herself. Surprised that she knows all about keeping safe and finding food in the forest, Maki is even more surprised at his new friend’s next remark, “I listen to my Mama!” Perhaps now, the little lemur is ready to do likewise.
Young listeners will enjoy finding out how Maki eventually learns to listen, while parents and educators could well learn alternative non-demanding ways to communicate with children be they or be they not, neurodiverse. Debut illustrator, Helen Panayi’s scenes of the lemur family and other creatures Maki encounter are great fun. She captures the young lemur’s changing feelings really well and adds gentle humour to the story: I love the meditating lemurs on the first page.