Monkey business

Adventures with Curious George in mind


Elsa M. Jacobson

Ten Tips 'You know, you don't need to go around the world for a great adventure," said Ted, the Man with the Yellow Hat, in response to a reporter's question about his next adventure with Curious George.

"Curious George," the PBS Kids series, debuted last month on WTTW-Channel 11 and "Curious George the Movie" was recently released on DVD.

After enjoying these adventures, here are suggestions for monkeying around, literally, without traveling around the world.

1 Visit monkeys at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Ask the docents questions and participate in a keeper chat, held at noon every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October through April.

Or adopt a colobus, howler or DeBrazza's monkey and you'll receive a fact sheet, newsletter and more. The zoo is at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. (312) 742-2000,

2 Grab a needle and thread. Order a sock monkey kit from Jo-Ann Fabrics ($11.99,, add fiberfill stuffing and you're all set.

At Build-A-Bear Workshop (multiple locations,, create a customized stuffed monkey or order one pre-made online.

3 Plant a monkey flower (Mimulus lewisii). According to, the flower looks like a monkey's face. Monkey flowers grow easily from seeds. Steve Winterfeldt, a horticulturist for Park Seed Co. ( notes that seeds germinate in just 10 days.

Jenny Lund, greenhouse manager at Cantigny in Wheaton, says you can grow the plant in a container, though you must bring it indoors for the winter.

4 Conduct a monkey scavenger hunt at the Art Institute of Chicago. Gallery 67: "Monkey Band" (1765-66), German porcelain figurines. Gallery 132: Chinese water ewer (fourth century B.C.), note small monkey on top. Gallery 135: "Simian Mother and Child" (circa 13th century), Indonesian sculpture. Gallery 219: "Still Life with Monkey, Fruits and Flowers" (1724), by French painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry. Gallery 271: "Monkey Fur" (1926/28), assemblage by Arthur Dove.

The museum is at 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 443-3600,

5 Perform like a monkey. Barrel of Monkeys' ensemble compiles stories from student workshops into the entertaining all-ages production "That's Weird, Grandma," 8 p.m. every Monday at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago. For information and tickets: (312) 409-1954,

6 Monkey puppets. For an original show, Timeless Toys, 4749 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, (773) 334-4445, stocks a Folkmanis monkey puppet (www.folk

7 Read monkey stories. Curious George is the hero of many volumes.

Monkeys also star in Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina and Eileen Christelow's Five Little Monkeys series.

To bring adventures to life, use Five Little Monkeys finger puppets, available at the Chicago Children's Museum store, 700 E. Grand Ave. at Navy Pier, Chicago, or

Chicago Public Library staff recommends poetry, folklore or natural history. The DK Eyewitness book Gorilla, Monkey & Ape, for example, gives background on primates, including Old World monkeys from Africa, Curious George's homeland.

If you'd rather write your own monkey stories, Peaceable Kingdom Press,, makes Curious George journals. Or buy one at the Art Institute's gift shop and detail your scavenger hunt.

8 Make clean-up your monkey business. The LUSH Cosmetics company infuses Jungle hair conditioner, King of Skin body conditioner and Sympathy for the Skin cream with fresh bananas. For store locations or to order, visit

Good monkeys also use banana toothpaste. Made by REACH, it's available at www.drug and other online shops.

9 Bake monkey bread. This bread is so named because it's eaten by pulling off clumps and devouring it like monkeys. "This delicious quick bread is a fun kitchen adventure," says Kim Cavaliero, Schaumburg mom of Nicholas, 9. This easy recipe is adapted from An African American Cookbook by Phoebe Bailey.

Mix ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans in a plastic bag. Take three cans of refrigerated biscuit dough (jumbo, eight to 10 rolls per can) and cut each biscuit into quarters. Roll into balls. Working a few biscuits at a time, add to plastic bag and shake until coated. Repeat with all rolls, then place neatly into buttered tube or Bundt pan. Melt ½ cup butter (one stick). Add 1 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Crumble over top of dough in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.

For ambitious bakers, try the yeast recipe at

Thirsty? Monkeys are trained to pick golden Yunnan tea leaves from steep mountains humans can't reach. Is this mere legend? Sample the tea at Urban Tea Lounge, 838 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago, (773) 907-8726, where they believe monkeys really do pick the leaves.

10 Act like a monkey. Climb monkey bars. For a greater challenge, try wall-climbing. You can take lessons at Lincoln Park Athletic Club, 1019 W. Diversey Pkwy., Chicago, (773) 529-2022,; and Lifetime Fitness, (check Web site for locations).

Need one more adventure? Monkey around at Go Bananas, 4516 N. Harlem Ave., Norridge, (708) 452-8800, www.gobananas, an indoor theme park.

And finally, play Barrel of Monkeys. The classic game of monkeys in a chain is still around.

Elsa M. Jacobson is a writer living in Chicago. She shares a spirit of adventure with Curious George and monkey business with her nieces and nephews.

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