________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007


Eenie Meenie Minie Moe.

Ruowen Wang. Illustrated by Wei Xu.
Toronto, ON: Kevin & Robin Books (www.kevinandrobinbooks.com), 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $23.95.
ISBN 978-0-9738798-4-1.

Subject Headings:
Monks - Juvenile fiction.
Cooperation - Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 5 / Ages 4-10.

Review by Laura Ludtke.

*** /4

Eenie Meenie Minie Moe is the brilliantly crafted story about an uncle telling his favourite niece a traditional Chinese story with a hidden lesson about her own life.

“Here we go!  Once upon a time … No, that sounds boring, doesn’t it? How would you like to listen to my improved English for a change?” Uncle came from China. He tries to speak English, and often mixes it with Chinese.

With his Chinese-accented English, Uncle starts again. “Here is a better version, in English: Mini, mini, money-mole …”

He makes me laugh. “No, Uncle. It is not ‘Mini, mini, money-mole.”

“It is not ‘a little money-mole’? What is it then? That was what you taught me, wasn’t it?”

“No. It should be ‘Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe.’ Now, listen carefully. Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe. Catch a tiger by its toe. If it hollers, let it go. Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe! Got it? But I thought you were going to tell me a Chinese story.”

“This story I’m going to tell you is very Chinese. Just sit up there and listen.”

     So begins the story of ‘The Three Monks’ in which three normally solitary monks learn to live together and cooperate in a small temple on a far away mountain top. Uncle’s story uses the technique of repetition to develop the monks’ lives. Each monk arrives thirsty and tired at the temple. The first monk finds the temple abandoned except for a small mouse (his only companion) and fetches water from the lake at the bottom of the mountain by himself to fill a big ceramic jar. When the second monk arrives, the first monk is so glad to have company that he shares water from the ceramic jar with his new companion. The second monk repays his kindness by fetching more water from the lake below. Eventually, the two monks work out an arrangement to fetch water together. 

internal art

     The third monk arrives and is thirsty and selfish. He drinks all of the other monks’ water from the ceramic jar without being offered it and then, without offering to get more water, falls asleep. After this, the monks no longer cooperate to get water, and the ceramic jar remains empty. Suddenly one night, the small mouse accidentally sets fire to the temple. The monks, realizing that the big ceramic jar is empty, work together to fetch water and put out the fire.

     Finishing the story, the Uncle suggests that his favourite niece is in a similar situation.

“Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe. Catch Robin by her toe. If she screams, don’t let her go. Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe.”

I protest. “Hey, why me? What have I done?”

“Well, the problem is not what you have done, but you have not done.” My uncle lifts me off the tree. “Come on, young lady. Let me show you your bedroom, and then you tell me what the problem is.”

     Robin shares her bedroom with her brother, and like the three monks living together, instead of cooperating, they each refuse to do more than the other, and so the room is total mess! With the help of their uncle and his stories, Robin and her brother are able to learn that duty (cleaning one’s room) and cooperation (cleaning the room together) can be fun and fulfilling.

     The book is delightfully illustrated, switching from a modern style of depiction to a more traditionally Chinese style for Uncle’s story. The illustrations are very rich, containing enough detail to keep any reader entertained with more than just the story. As well, the illustrations (along with the story they accompany) offer young readers the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture.

“Here we go again,” says Uncle. “Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe. Catch a monk by his toe …”

“Wrong, wrong again. It should be ‘Catch a tiger by its toe.’”

“A tiger bites. It’s safer to catch a monk by his toe. Now, where are we?  Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe. Catch a monk by his toe. If he chants let him go …”

“No, no, no! You have got this part wrong too! It should be “If it hollers, let it go’.”

“Wait a minute. We are talking about a monk. Monks don’t holler. Well, maybe the little monk does if his house is on fire, but the big ones chant.”

     I recommend Eenie Meenie Minie Moe to all readers who enjoy a well-crafted story that is about more than just story-telling!


Laura Ludtke is a candidate for a Masters of Classics at Queen’s University. She reads and review Children’s (and Young Adult) literature in her spare time; she is always a fan stories within stories!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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