Reading Outside The Lines: Five Little Monkeys


five little monkeysRecently, on the approximately 100th reading of Five Little Monkeys to my children, I noticed something about this preschool book by Eileen Christelow that I had never seen before. 

If you haven’t read it, or heard the song on which it’s based, this is the story of a Mama Monkey and her five energetic monkey children who keep jumping on their bed and falling off one by one.

five little monkeys

Each time they hurt their head. And each time she calls the doctor who advises, “no more monkeys jumping on the bed!” It’s a really cute repetitive poem and both my kids love being read this book.

Now, I don’t know how it appears in other printed versions, but in this particular adaptation, the drawings are very playful and funny, kinda like the monkeys they’re meant to portray. It also has an ending that’s slightly different from the original song. And I’ve always kind of identified with this poor, tired mom who keeps trying to keep her kiddos in check but they won’t listen to her. She is my spirit animal…or so I thought.

The other night, as I was reading it yet again, something about the pictures struck me.

Before, I had always focused on the mom and the kids. But this time I read it from the perspective of the doctor. Oh man, this poor guy! It’s nighttime, he’s relaxing in a comfy armchair at home, and he keeps getting frantic calls from this monkey mama about the same exact completely-avoidable accidents

Here’s a composite of the five different times in the book Dr Monkey gets called:

five little monkeys

When you examine the drawings of the doctor side by side, you can see he starts off with a pleasant, positive look on his face. Sure, these things can happen once or twice. Then around call #3, you can see he’s getting a bit perturbed (perhaps was trying to watch a favorite show in his favorite arm chair?). Call #4 and he is actually CRYING. The frustration this poor medical school graduate primate must be feeling right now! And then, finally, the call we all knew was coming, call #5. He’s crying and shaking and basically going into a full mental breakdown.

How many times does he have to tell this terrible mother to not let her kids jump on the freakin’ bed???

Look at it again. Do you see what I’m talking about??

five little monkeys

And then, the kicker:

five little monkeys

After all the children have passed out from their head injuries…

five little monkeys

Monkey Mama starts jumping on the bed! I mean, is it any wonder why all her kids are jumping on their bed too?

We all know that classic anti-drug ad from the 1980s where the dad confronts his son about where he learned to smoke pot yeah? “I learned it by watching you, dad!” And this is clearly the same kind of situation. Of course these five little monkeys are going to jump on their bed! They’re probably full aware that Monkey Mama is doing it at night when she thinks no one is watching. 

Monkey see, monkey do, amiright?? 

And now, a conspiracy theory has just occurred to me. Does she perhaps keep calling the doctor – not because she needs medical advice – but because she’s secretly hoping he’ll tell her it’s okay to jump on the bed? Is she seeking validation for her own dangerous habit??

Have I completely lost my mind over-analyzing this book? Can you blame me after I’ve had to read it literally 100 times over the past 5+ years we’ve owned it?

Ultimately though, I don’t even think it’s fair to pass judgment on Mama Monkey for wanting to jump on the bed. She’s apparently a single mom, struggling to care for all her kids. Can’t even afford separate beds for them. So what’s a hairy gal with opposable thumbs supposed to do once she finally gets a moment to herself at the end of the night?

Have the little bit of fun she can find in this cramped treehouse apartment they call home, that’s what. So I say, jump on the bed all you want Bubbles dear! Just maybe, maybe, don’t call the doctor so much, ‘mkay? 

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Follow me on Instagram @EcoFriendlyMama, Twitter @EcoFriendlyMa, and Pinterest @EcoFriendlyMama! Though I was born and raised in New York City, I've lived in SoCal for over ten years now and am proud to call this beautiful and diverse place my home. My husband and I have a son and baby daughter (whom I was 9 months pregnant with when this photo was taken!). Prior to becoming a mommy I spent several years in feature film publicity and acquisitions for Miramax and later as the Creative Executive for Hilary Swank Productions before seguing to the music industry where I did Online Communications for the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares. In my ample pre-parenthood free time, I also freelanced as a script analyst and screenwriter. I am fortunate now to be able to devote all my time to my family, but I still love to write so am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this blog! I am a foodie, avid traveler, environmentalist, preschool board member, and unabashed Disney nut. I can also be found writing about green parenting and eco-conscious living on my personal website,


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