Cover image for The monkey tree
The monkey tree
Anderson, Janet, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, [1998]

Physical Description:
152 pages ; 22 cm
Afraid that she has lost her own artistic ability, fourteen-year-old Susanna feels a connection with her great-uncle Louie, who has spent the past twenty years hidden away in his room, and in trying to reach him, she begins to discover her own inner strength.
Reading Level:
600 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.2 5.0 32051.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.6 10 Quiz: 21987 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Susanna's great-uncle hasn't left his bedroom for twenty years. Her mother says that he was one of those children born without skin, so sensitive that everything hurt him. With her artist's eyes and feelings, Susanna can understand the appeal of the beautiful little sanctuary to Uncle Louis. It's a treasure room'a place for hoarding and holing up against the world. Susanna would like to hide there with him.In this powerful new novel, Janet S. Anderson, acclaimed author of Going Through the Gate, shares the observations and stinging emotions of a fourteen-year-old girl in retreat from the world. The brutal betrayal of a friend and the scathing comments of a teacher send Susanna deep within herself, searching fearfully for a way to safely connect again. Uncle Louis, with his silences and shared artist's skills, seems to offer that.But a fiercely determined, funny neighbor and the demands of her own curiosity pull Susanna back into experience. And when tragedy comes, she learns that what she has to give can be enough.Ms. Anderson's previous novel, Going Through the Gate, received a starred review from School Library Journal and a pointer from Kirkus. And Publishers Weekly noted that it ?brilliantly evokes the fear and exhilaration of growing up.'

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. A rich, luminous novel from the author who gave us the radiant Going through the Gate last year. The summer Susanna is 14, she has a lot to cope with: her grandmother has just died, and her grieving parents now have Uncle Louie, who hasn't left his room in Grandma's house in 20 years. Susanna also holds within herself a tangle of fears and sorrows. Her best friend has abandoned and publicly humiliated her, her golden older brother seems to find her an embarrassment, and, worst of all, her art teacher has said her work isn't good enough any more. Anderson makes limpidly clear how the making of art feels to Susanna, how it shapes what she sees, and how her fingers respond. The author also articulates how this close, loving family tries to deal with death, loss, and financial hardship. She creates a stunning portrait of sensitive, withdrawn Uncle Louie, abused by his father and protected by his sister, Susanna's grandmother. Susanna tries to find the key to Uncle Louie, even as she unlocks the treasure-filled room he never leaves, and she finds a way with Melody, a large, raucous teenage neighbor with her own sorrows. The language is lyrical and precise: corners "fat with dust"; a face "opened into joy." The monkey tree, the first thing Susanna draws that summer, begins with animals with no tails, nothing to hold on to, but ends with all of them hanging on to each other. While difficult and sad decisions remain to be made, Susanna finds in her father's music and in her own drawing the rightness of what is to come. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anderson, whose debut novel, Going Through the Gate, dealt with coming-of-age rituals, takes on another uncommon theme in this thought-provoking story. Fourteen-year-old Susanna is a talented artist undergoing intense self-doubt that is exacerbated when she meets her uncle, an artist who is incapacitated by fear. In addition, one of her best friends has moved away, another has disowned Susanna and the desire to create art in favor of joining the popular crowd, and Susanna watches her father put aside his music career. Susanna is dislocated still further when her grandmother dies and the family moves into her grandparents' home for the summer. It is then that she meets her mother's reclusive, erratic Uncle Louie, once an artist but now a family burden. Although Susanna is initially afraid of him, she quickly comes to identify with his sensitivity to beauty. Through a harrowing experience involving Uncle Louie and her brother, Susanna discovers her own resiliency. She also acquires an unlikely friend and learns that her accomplished brother has his own insecurities. Anderson's prose, filled with vigorous descriptions and staccato phrases, keeps the action moving, but the novel leaves many unanswered questions concerning the ambivalence of Susanna's father about his music and Uncle Louie's mental state and its probable causes. Readers will have trouble, as well, connecting the themes of friendship and isolation with the image of tailless monkeys that Susanna draws. An interesting but unsettling book. Ages 12-15. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-A dark and intense story of a 14-year-old girl's retreat from the world and her struggle to reconnect. After her grandmother dies, Susanna and her family spend the summer at Grandma's house to care for Great Uncle Louis, a recluse who hasn't left his bedroom in 20 years. Louis, like Susanna, is artistic and extremely sensitive. She empathizes with him. Betrayed by a friend and stung by some negative comments on her artwork by a teacher, Susanna has become friendless, fearful, and insecure. With some help from a fierce yet funny new friend, she begins to realize many things: life is hard, but also wonderful; it's important to take risks; being different doesn't mean being crazy; people need others; and art is very important to her. When Uncle Louis disappears, she is able to draw on her inner resources to deal with the situation. Susanna's paralysis of spirit and her nervousness are reflected in the jumpy, fragmented, somewhat stream-of-consciousness style of the novel-a style that is sometimes difficult to follow. Susanna draws a tree (hence the title) with monkeys hanging from branches and reaching out to help other monkeys climb up. This tree becomes a metaphor for her need to abandon her withdrawal and reach out to those around her. A difficult read with a limited audience.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.