Tales For Your Monkey’s Mind by Steve Michael Reedy is a book of fables where everything is not always as it seems. Stories about toy factories, clowns, magical storybooks, witch’s spells, and more each give a different moral about life and what’s most important. It’s an entertaining book for kids that dare to be dark. Overall, it’s an ambitious and imaginative work of children’s fiction.
The book is sort of like the anti-Roald Dahl. In Roald Dahl’s stories, the external world is sinister and depressing, until you start looking at the magic underneath. In Reedy’s stories, the opposite is the case.
This is especially apparent in the opening story, which is very reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In this story, there’s a toy factory at the center of town that is the most magical and mysterious thing imaginable. When kids are thirteen, they finally get to go inside, and one child sneaks in on the eve of his thirteenth birthday because he just can’t wait. Instead of finding magic (as with Wonka), a much more daunting fate awaits.
It’s not quite as fun a moral as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where it gleefully skewers spoiled children and their enabling parents. However, as its own fable, it works for the very reason that it’s jarring, even dispiriting. Dahl proved that children’s stories can be dark, and Reedy is a vivid and eloquent storyteller in that tradition.
The first story sets the tone for the rest of the book. The second one is about Clown Town, where everything is hilarious and cartoonish. A girl dreams of dressing up like a clown and then finds that the clothes are so confining that she’s not able to play with her friends. Again, what looks amazing on the surface is not quite what it’s cracked up to be. This a major theme in the book, and it’s a good message for kids to have. It’s not a one-theme book, however. Each story has a different message to send about how to go through life (and even death), and each message builds on the last.
One issue with the book is the level of the prose. Though written in long-form prose, it sometimes veers into rhyming verse more appropriate for a much younger audience. It also doesn’t rhyme consistently, so the prose goes from rhyming to not and back again. There some interesting creative license at work here, but this switching in tone doesn’t always work. The cover also doesn’t really do the book justice, and isn’t nearly as eye-catching as the illustrations inside, which are fun and expressive.
Aside from that, the book deftly manages to be two things at once: dark and fun. That’s a very tough balance for a kid’s book, but Reedy pulls it off. The book will lead to a lot of interesting discussions between parents and kids, as the morals in each tale are multi-layered. Definitely recommended for kids and adults alike.