Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Orchard Books. First published 2006.
There was a town not far from here
Called Drabsville, USA,
Where all the houses looked the same
And all of them were grey.
There were no parks to play in.
There were no trees at all.
And the chimpanzees who lived there
All felt very sad and small.
Now, Chutney was a traveller.
He travelled far and wide.
And he came home with a box one day,
Which had a seed inside.
And so begins this quasi-political book about an exotic chimpanzee who spreads hope and happiness throughout Drabsville by planting a seed which grows into a colourful tree.
No picture book would be complete without a struggle of some kind and Chutney is thrown in jail for rocking the dreary Drabsville boat.
The Mayor yells:
“You can’t grow things in Drabsville,
That is just beyond the pale!
Guards, seize that wretched chimpanzee
And throw him into jail!”
So Chutney went to prison,
Where his cell was cold and bare.
And the mayor left for his winter break
To catch some country air.
The plot follows Chutney as his enthusiasm for life spreads throughout the town, despite his beloved tree being felled.
Chutney’s next door neighbours water the seed from his chopped down tree and help it flourish into a beacon of beauty and colour whilst the Mayor is away.
The townsfolk eventually decide they prefer colour to the grey of Drabsville and Chutney is made Mayor in the absence of the former, who is appalled at the fun his citizens have been having upon his return.
Drabsville is re-named Happytown but, when the dreary Mayor demands Chutney be thrown in jail again, it is HE who is thrown in jail to learn a lesson.
Mayor Chutney said, “You see my tree?
Well, now I hope you know
That everything that we cut down
Will find a way to grow.
And things will always blossom
If we care to set them free.
It’s no different for a little flower
As for a chimpanzee.”
This really is the message of the book summed up very neatly.
“The Chimpanzees of Happytown” is celebration of freedom, individuality, happiness and the importance of living life to the full.
Both my sons have adored the colourful exuberance of the illustrations and the rhythmical text.
At 568 words, it’s an easy classroom or bedtime read for youngsters aged 3-6 years.
It’s been a perennial in our household with my sons enjoying comparing the dull, grey shops and homes at the start of the book, with the same shops and homes at the end, which have undergone a fantastical rainbow treatment.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s ‘a keeper’ on so many levels.