Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb: classic kids' book about drumming beatnik monkeys

One of the coolest things about being a Dad is getting the chance to pass on the books I loved as a kid to my daughter. I was bummed to discover that my favorite larval maker book, Why I Built the Boogle House, was long out of print and not suited to review here (though I do have my much-loved copy for the kid!), but that sorrow was dispelled by my discovery of a pocket-sized board-book edition of Al Perkins and Eric Gurney's 1969 classic, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb is a great, rhythmic poem about monkeys playing drums, with an infectious, earwormy refrain: "Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum." It opens with one monkey drumming on his drum with one thumb, and progresses until "millions of monkeys" are drumming on drums (dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum).

It's not (just) the refrain that makes this book so great -- it's the monkeys. Illustrator Eric Gurney's drumming monkeys are a motley collection of comic beatnik simians, sporting sweater-vests, giant muttonchops, goatees, and big golden rings. Each one bears an expression of such incredible cool and mischief that I could look at them all day.


I'm clearly not the only one. When Poesy wakes up every morning, I go into her room and change her diaper and say, "Did you have a nice sleep, Poesy? What did you dream about?" Every morning this week, she's said the same thing: "Monkeys drumming on drums!"

The pocket-sized edition is great for trips, and the rhythm is a perfect distraction for grumpy car-rides, impatient restaurant meals, and interminable waits for the bus. And unlike many of the kids' books and videos that Poesy wants to play 200 times in a row, I don't get tired of this one, either.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb