Ask First, Monkey!

Ask First, Monkey!
Juliet Clare Bell and Abigail Tompkins
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Mischievous Monkey considers himself Tickletastic – the world’s best tickler – but in so becoming he’s most definitely been invading the personal space of others.
Goat was decidedly unhappy about being tickled; he certainly didn’t give consent and, to Monkey’s surprise, quite rightly tells him to stop.

Paying little heed however, the tickler continues to be a disrespecter of boundaries, demonstrating various other tickling styles and causing his fellow animals to show him their ‘frowny faces’

and to say how much they disliked his actions.

Eventually the message gets through; Monkey apologies to all his friends – goat, giraffe, panda, rabbit, dog, lion cub and goose, frog …

and cow.

Then comes the light bulb moment, ‘Ask first!’ And that applies to hugging or any other form of touching: No need for reasons why, no coercion; consent is crucial.

Written by Juliet Clare Bell, the story is simply and succinctly told with gentle humour yet without being overtly didactic, and illustrated with Abigail Tompkins’ vibrant, colourful portrayal of actions and reactions.

A book for sharing, discussing and acting upon that definitely should be in all nurseries, child and parent groups, early years classrooms and families with young children.

The Little Mouse and the Red Wall

The Little Mouse and the Red Wall
Britta Teckentrup
Orchard Books

Little Mouse lives in a community surrounded by a big red wall. It’s always been there but why? And what lies beyond?
When she asks the other animals, each one comes up with a different reason – for protection, thinks Scaredy Cat; Old Bear cannot remember; Fox doesn’t care and Lion Who Had Lost His Roar says  ‘just a big black nothing’ is behind the wall.

None of these responses satisfy Little Mouse but then one day she meets a Bluebird. Thanks to the bird, she is able to discover the answers to her questions.

What she sees – a world of freedom and beauty – and an ensuing conversation with the Bluebird are life changing, altering completely her way of seeing and being in the world.
They were looking with fear… YOU are looking with wonder. You were brave enough to find out the truth for yourself.

Little Mouse goes back to her friends and tells them of the wonders she’s seen and one by one they walk through the wall, all except Lion, although one day he too is ready to join the others in the land beyond.

Despite the simplicity of her telling, Britta Teckentrup’s beautifully illustrated story is profound and would be an ideal starting point for a community of enquiry style philosophical discussion.

When we in the UK, and other countries, seem to be putting up boundaries, its timely themes of discovering freedom and embracing change, both personal and in the world, will resonate with both children and adults.