Kai and the Monkey King is a children's picture book that was written and illustrated by author and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton. It is 56 pages long and suitable for children 5 years and older. Kai and the Monkey King was published by Flying Eye Books on 18 November 2019 and is the third book in Todd-Stanton's Brownstone's Mythical Collection. Todd-Stanton has written and illustrated a number of children's books that have received award nominations and recognition. His 2017 children's book The Secret of Black Rock was awarded the 2018 Waterstones Children's Book Prize and longlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal and his 2016 children's book Arthur and the Golden Rope received an Eisner nomination in 2018.
The Brownstone Mythical Collection books are narrated by Professor Brownstone, a kindly old man, who is the custodian of a large vault bursting with an assortment of weird and wonderful artifacts. The Professor is a member of the legendary Brownstone family, who for generations have wandered across the globe, searching for knowledge and collecting mythological artifacts. The Brownstone vault contains all of the mysterious treasures that the family have ever collected. In Kai and the Monkey King, Professor Brownstone tells the story of two of his ancestors, Wen and her daughter Kai, who traveled from land to land as Brownstones observing, documenting and containing any mythological phenomena they came across. As Kai grows older, she starts to become impatient with her mother's approach to things, and begins to itch for more excitement and bigger and dangerous challenges. When the two Brownstones receive a request for help from a village that is being attacked every year by a monster, Kai hopes that a grand adventure awaits them. When her mother decides to look in a library for clues to defeat the beast, a frustrated Kai sets out on her own to prove herself as an adventurer, and decides to recruit the mischievous Monkey King in her quest. When the Monkey King turns out to be more trouble than he is worth, Kai learns to appreciate her mother more, and the two of them grow closer.
Kai and the Monkey King features full-page, colour artwork that will captivate young readers. I felt the story was a little lacklustre, though. Kai and Wen are an interesting pair. I liked that the book revolved around a mother and daughter going on adventures together and the focus on Chinese mythology was interesting. What disappointed me was how the two storylines in the book failed to connect together in any meaningful way. Todd-Stanton goes to all the trouble of introducing the Monkey King and explaining his backstory, but didn't include a satisfying conclusion. I felt like The Monkey King could've easily been absent from the book and it wouldn't have impacted the story much.