We may not be able to travel abroad during this time of COVID, but we can travel overseas through the pages of a book with stunning pictures and endearing, memorable characters that transport the reader to another world. Monkey’s Great Adventures – Afloat in Venice is written by Tina Wilson who also created the pictures and this story has the power to take the reader to the very heart of Venice. There is original music created for this story by award winning artist, Matt Ottley and this picture book is published by One Tentacle Publishing. This is a heart-warming story about adventure, discovering new places, being open to possibilities, loss and the power of friendship. It includes a CD featuring the music and narration.
Afloat in Venice has charming characters, full of personality and each page is illuminated by exquisite photos of Venice. The addition of music helps bring the story to life. This picture book offers a truly immersive sensory journey as the reader experiences the iconic sights and sounds of Venice. Tina’s photography and Matt’s music take the reader on a journey through Venice they won’t forget. There’s one more feature of this story that leaves an indelible mark in the readers mind and heart and that is the unique characters, which happen to be knitted toys, lovingly created by Joan Wilson, Tina’s Mum. These characters have been photographed in Venice. Tina has cleverly posed the knitted characters and their gorgeous knitted accessories and used photographic techniques to capture the characters moods, interactions, triumphs and struggles, which creates an emotional connection with the reader.
This story tells of Monkey’s overseas adventure to Venice and begins as Monkey prepares for this very exciting trip. As it is Monkey’s first holiday, he is gifted a camera. Once Monkey is all packed, he is set to go! Going to Venice is a long trip and involves a flight, boat ride and stairs – lots of stairs to climb. Finally, Monkey reaches his highly anticipated destination, Venice, in all its glory. With his camera securely around his neck, Monkey has one thing on his mind and that is exploring this beautiful, new, captivating city and capturing the sights on his camera. As he ventures out, he is greeted by a friendly and curious cat, Clarabella. Clarabella offers to show Monkey the sights. Together, they embark on a fun filled afternoon of adventure and discovery as they enjoy all of the spectacular wonders and foods Venice has to offer. As night descends, their adventure is coming to an end for the day. Monkey wants to capture one final photo, but disaster strikes! Monkey loses his camera and it seems as though it will be impossible to retrieve. Monkey then realises that not only is his beloved camera missing, but Clarabella is nowhere to be seen. In an unfamiliar city, Monkey is now all alone. Will he find his camera? Will he reunite with Clarabella?
The music that Matt Ottley composed for this story conveys the gamut of emotions Monkey experiences. The piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, French horn and clarinet are the instruments used in this composition. The music complements the story, for example, when the piece begins, the listener hears the piano playing, it sounds uplifting and full of hope (be warned, it is nearly impossible not to want to tap your toes and smile as you listen). This perfectly captures the feeling of excitement for a long awaited adventure. The music then changes to reflect a change of mood for the actual journey and captures the different emotions Monkey experiences on the various parts of his journey (ominous while travelling on the plane and then relaxed for the boat ride). Certain sentences also trigger changes in the music (for example, when Monkey has to climb lots of stairs the music reflects this action).
Detailed Teachers Resources can be downloaded from the website for Monkey’s Great Adventures. This is an invaluable resource that includes: the inspiration for the book, engaging teaching ideas and activities across the curriculum, questioning for visual literacy for each of the pages, information about the creative process from author and illustrator, Tina Wilson, the music composer, Matt Ottley and some insights into the knitting by Joan Wilson.
Afloat in Venice is the first in the series of Monkey’s Great Adventures. It is very exciting to contemplate and look forward to what adventure loving Monkey will get up to in the next book. Afloat in Venice will have a wide reaching appeal as children will be able to relate to different themes from the story, whether it be the excitement of a holiday, exploring a new and unfamiliar place, making a new friend, imagining the story and adventures of a toy that comes to life, or perhaps enjoying the scenery captured in the photos. There is something for everyone to appreciate in this unique, captivating book as the reader travels to Venice with Monkey and friends.