Monkey Food is a collection of semi-autobiographical strips based on growing up in the 70s. Even though Ellen Forney and I are about the same age, I didn’t go through many of the things she remembers, like pot busts or CB radios. Then again, I did have to deal with winged hair, and the Judy Blume books were minor classics for my age group. Plus, when thinking back on childhood, some things are timeless, like the family dog having puppies, sibling teasing, and book reports.
The thick ink line gives almost a children’s book kind of feel. Large amounts of text wander through the panels, in and around the art. Faces are simple — circle eyes in circle heads — alternating with photo recreations to better establish the times. The cartoony style really helps the reader approach the material. For example, the nudist camp becomes about no clothes, not sex, since everyone looks like they’re made out of Playdoh.
(The title, by the way, refers to snack time at the Unitarian church… instead of Oreos and apple juice, the class ate raw fruits and vegetables. Monkey food.)
Monkey Food is a time capsule. Most of what happens within is universal; it’s just dressed up in 70’s clothes. The character development is terrific. Most importantly, everyone’s treated lovingly and non-judgmentally appreciated for who they are, even the bratty brother. Since it’s a collection of comic strips, it’s also a great browsing book.
More information and sample cartoons are available at Ellen Forney’s web site.