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Review of Baby Monkey, Private Eye

 Baby Monkey, Private Eye
by Brian Selznick and David Serlin; illus. by Brian Selznick
Primary    Scholastic    192 pp.
2/18    978-1-338-18061-9    $16.99

Selznick, who won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for his 534-page picture book/novel hybrid The Invention of Hugo Cabret (rev. 3/07), here presents with coauthor and husband Serlin an almost-two-hundred-page…easy reader/film-noir homage. In five chapters, diminutive gumshoe Baby Monkey solves a series of cases (“Chapter One: The Case of the Missing Jewels!” “Chapter Two: The Case of the Missing Pizza!”). Each follows a predictable pattern, with occasional small variation: Baby Monkey is waiting in his office (think The Maltese Falcon); a client arrives; Baby 
Monkey looks for clues and takes notes; he has a snack…then puts on his pants, the last a complicated procedure. After some perfectly timed page-turns showing the getting-dressed process, “Now Baby Monkey is ready!” He leaves his office, solves the case, and captures the culprit: “Hooray for Baby Monkey!” New readers will delight in the details in both the brief text and the shadowy, noirish black-and-white illustrations with pops of red. Baby Monkey looks like a cute little monkey, albeit with anthropomorphized facial expressions; and the spot-on slapstick pacing of the putting-on-pants sequences will have viewers giggling for days. The decorations and books in Baby Monkey’s office change thematically (and sophisticatedly) with each case — see the appended key (e.g., “Baby from Madame Roulin and Her Baby, 1888 painting by Vincent van Gogh [1853-1890]”). Also appended with an index (“Anderson, Marian: 23, 47”) and a totally-made-up-but-plausible-sounding bibliography of Baby Monkey’s books (“Zanzibar, Jeanine. Healthy Snacks for Growing Primates. Madison, WI: Harlow Books, 1994”).

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.



  1. I gave this book to my kindergarten granddaughter, emerging reader, who carries it around with her and reads and re-reads. Her first words: “I thought it would be so-o-o long before I actually could read a chapter book!” FYI, I love it, too!

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