Count the Monkeys

Zany, interactive tale of trying to find and count monkeys.
ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

Educational value

It's mainly silly fun, but kids get practice counting and identifying animals.

Positive messages

Never give up, no matter how crazy things get -- keep searching for those monkeys!

Positive role models

There are good guys and bad guys in Count the Monkeys: some that scare off the monkeys (the cobra), some that scare off the good guys (the crocodiles, the bears, the wolves) and some that scare off the bad guys (the mongeese, the bees, the bee keepers, the lumberjacks). 

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Count the Monkeys, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kevin Cornell, is a sort of spoof of conventional counting books. The monkeys of the title have been scared off by a succession of animals and people (that the readers can count), and the actions of those get crazier and crazier as the book goes on. It's a fun ride that's more about that journey than the destination, but there's some monkey satisfaction at the very end. 

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What's the story?

An unseen narrator tells readers to COUNT THE MONKEYS, but the animals have been scared off by a king cobra. Kids get more instructions on each spread-- such as "raise your hand," "cover your eyes," "make a loud roar!" and "move your hand in a zigzag" -- to fend off various scary critters, from "4 grizzly bears" to "5 bee swarms" to "7 wolves," in the continuing search for the monkeys. After much counting craziness and chaos, readers reach the end of the book finding "0 monkeys" to count -- until they turn the last page and find a horde of them on the endpapers.

Is it any good?


Count the Monkeys is a funny, clever picture book that plays with the traditional counting motif by making the story about never finding the animals intended to be counted! Instead, readers get to count all sorts of other creatures and people that have scared off the poor monkeys. It's a silly, zany, and action-packed quest, with lots of mishaps and missteps, culminating in "10 polka-dotted rhinoceroses with bagpipes and bad breath," that's guaranteed to provoke giggles, if not guffaws.

Kids will love the expressive, comical illustrations (including "9 lumberjacks" eating pancakes), and the wacky instructions add a playful interactive element -- as if readers'  gestures will truly lead to finding the monkeys.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about counting books and why kids love them. What's fun about them? How is this one different from most? 

  • What's funny about monkeys? Why are they often in picture books? 

  • Make up a counting story of your own. What people or animals will you have in it?

Book details

Author:Mac Barnett
Illustrator:Kevin Cornell
Topics:Numbers and letters, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:June 25, 2013
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 6
Read aloud:3 - 6
Read alone:6 - 7
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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