Aye-Aye is a mischievous lemur living in a village in Madagascar, where he loves playing pranks on the residents. His favorite is using his huge bony hand to scare people during dinner and then gobbling up the food they toss to drive him away. However, he finally goes too far and a law is passed banning lemurs from the village. Exiled to the forest, he longs to return to the village, but as he tries to devise a plan to win back the villagers’ hearts, he can only imagine foolery and awful tricks.
That’s when a winged creature swoops down from the sky and scares Aye-Aye badly. This is a wise flying fox, who tells the lemur she’s arrived to help in two ways: to demonstrate how frightening pranks can be, and find a way for Aye-Aye to win back the villagers’ hearts by helping them. Her service to humans is eating mosquitoes, keeping them safe from many diseases. She advises Aye-Aye to find a way to help the village, even using his scary paw to do so.
Following the flying fox’s advice, he watches the village for a month, waiting for a chance to help someone. It arrives in the form of a little girl throwing her food around as she eats lunch outside, while her mother is in the house. Aye-Aye uses his long claws to pry the food from underneath the rock it’s fallen under, and as he offers it back to her, the little girl smiles in gratitude and grabs one of his long fingers. When her mom runs outside to defend her, she’s surprised by her daughter’s happiness and how much Aye-Aye clearly loves her, so she leads the people to change the law: instead of banishing lemurs, they’ll always be welcomed.
Terri Tatchell’s rhyming book is a delightful lesson on reversing behavioral mistakes, while also focusing on one of the world’s endangered species. The last page is packed with facts about lemurs and flying foxes (which are classified as vulnerable, one step less serious than endangered), as well as how to draw each animal and how kids can help endangered and vulnerable creatures. The gorgeous illustrations by Ivan Sulima highlight each animal’s beauty and service, as well as the villagers’ vivid responses. Together, they’ve created an outstanding picture book that introduces young children ages 4 – 8 to the plight of endangered animals and the misunderstandings that cause problems, as well as paths toward a solution for both.