My attraction to monkeys began early in my childhood. I loved Margret and H.A. Rey’s Curious George stories, and I envied his tiny suitcase that he carried everywhere containing all of his important possessions. When I was about 8 years old, I got to meet some real life Curious Georges. My father was employed at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo as a behavioral psychologist, working with animal subjects. He worked with white rats, but his colleague, Dr. Gault, worked with rhesus monkeys. My father would take me along on an occasional weekend task and I got to visit the monkey enclosures. They were always so excited to see humans approaching and their energy and loudness was both scary and exciting. I got to feed them biscuits from large Purina Monkey Biscuit bags. Tiny fingers held out the treat and tiny fingers accepted. I begged to have one of these monkeys as a pet, but my dad concluded that our big old house on Oakland Drive was not big enough for our growing family and a monkey, too.
Western Michigan University also gave me another unexpected, but delightful monkey treat. WMU housed a wonderful experimental teaching school, preschoolers through high school (you could go from preschool to a Ph.D. all in one place!), which I attended since my dad worked there. At one of the yearly children’s book fairs, I got to actually meet Margret and H.A. Rey.
Monkeys are one of my very favorite animal subjects. They are elegant in their simplicity, like real monkeys, and each has a definite personality.
A few components of my monkeys are:
- Body – Redwood fence posts
- Legs – Kitchen utensils or old tool handles
- Arms, ballerina-like – Badminton rackets (tennis rackets are not as elegant)
- Feet – Old furniture casters or printing wheels
- Tails – Pieces of a metal strap, and
- Goofy expressions and hand carved bananas