Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Never Smile at a Monkey


Summary and Introduction
Never Smile at a Monkey
was written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.   This book discusses animal adaptation and some of the defense mechanisms animals possess to protect themselves from predators and humans.  It focuses on 17 different animals including mammals, lizards and sea creatures.  The book deals with the protective aspects of these animals whether it be teeth, claws, spines or venom.  While the subject matter is serious and informative for children, the illustrations keep it kid friendly.

“And a final word of advice: NEVER smile at a monkey!  If you smile at a rhesus (ree-sus) monkey, it may interpret your show of teeth as an aggressive gesture and respond violently.  Even a small monkey can give you a serious bite with its sharp fangs.”

In the back of the book, it provides additional information about each of the animals habitat and where they are indigenous.  The section also provides an opportunity for additional reading and offers five other books to choose from.

Curriculum Connections
The book provides a wealth of opportunity to study about living things in an ecosystem and how they might interact or fight with one another.  It tells the reader despite looking friendly and harmless, some creatures can be deadly to others.  One can tie the protective defenses lesson when discussing predator and prey or when discussing animal adaptations in class.  While the book is geared for younger audiences, I think that it would best fit students in 2nd, 3rd or 4th grades based on some of the subject matter.  (VA SOL 4.5a)

Additional Resources

  • Animal Adaptations Worksheet  This worksheet can be completed in class or as homework and focuses on  animal adaptations and their function.
  • Animal Adaptation Lesson Plan  This lesson plan focuses on reptile adaptations and provides a critical thinking exercise dealing with the effects of such adaptations.
  • Animal Adaptation Jungle Walk  This link provides pictures and video of different animal adaptations and breaks them out by region.
  • Animal Adaptations (Another Evolutionary Lesson Plan!)  This lesson plan allows students to brainstorm about animal adaptation concepts.

Book: Never Smile at a Monkey
Author/Illustrator : /Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 30
Grade Range: K – 4th
ISBN: 978-0-618-96620-2

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