monkeySun Wukong is no ordinary monkey. He was born from a stone egg that was nurtured by the elements since the beginning of time. His ability to understand and communicate with the world around him, as well as his natural fighting abilities, allows him to secure the position of monkey king. Not happy with being just a king, however, Sun Wukong sets his eyes on immortality, hoping to become equal toif not greater thanthe gods in heaven. Sun Wukong uses manipulation, trickery, and force to get power from the immortals until he becomes one of them. Whether it’s diving into the ocean to get a magic weapon from the dragon god that can grow and shrink at the owner’s request, forcing the Jade Emperor to make him the keeper of the stables (a job he almost immediately finds beneath him), or stealing the immortal peaches at a heavenly banquet, Sun Wukong quickly makes a name for himself, and not in a good way. With no other options left, the Buddha is called in to trap Sun Wukong.

Five hundred years later, the Bodhisattva arranges for Sun Wukong’s release on the condition that he uses his powers and wit to protect the Buddhist monk Xuanzang on his mission to India to bring back the Buddhist scriptures to his people. Xuanzang and Sun Wukong’s relationship is often tested, but through it all, Sun Wukong proves loyal to his master.

The Monkey God covers the first thirty chapters of the Chinese mythological tale known to American audiences as Journey to the West, an epic quest that follows the powerful and rambunctious Monkey God, a shape-shifting pig, and a river demon as they assist Xuanzang on his journey. Along the way, they must continually prove their worth by fighting evil demons and facing temptation. Based on true events, Journey to the West was first published in the 16th century and is considered to be one of the most iconic and beloved novels in China. Journey to the West has been translated into many languages, as well as adapted for graphic novels, movies, and television. The character Son Goku, star of the hit anime series Dragon Ball and Dragonball Z, was based on Sun Wukong.

In The Monkey God, Sun Wukong’s adventures are being recounted to the Jade Emperor by two of his heralds, a clever technique that further enables readers to be sucked into the tale. As this is a one-volume adaptation of a lengthy novel, not everything could be covered. Major scenes, dialogue, and iconic battles for the first thirty chapters are shown, while others are simply referred to in the dialogue. Time skips are also seamlessly added to move the story along.

Overall, The Monkey God is a faithful and engaging adaptation with great dialogue between the characters, dramatic fight sequences, and stunning digitally colored art. The illustrations are striking, with bright backgrounds and complexly drawn characters full of energy and emotion.

The Monkey God will appeal to a wide audience, especially fans of manga and action/adventure stories. Sun Wukong is a trickster character, making him relatable and likable to readers of all ages, especially children. The Monkey God will make a great addition to any school or public library.

A nice blurb at the end encourages readers to visit their school or public library to read Journey to the West in its entirety.

The Monkey God 
by Wu Cheng’en, Jean David Morvan, and Yann Le Gal
Art by Jian Yi
ISBN: 9781629910611
Papercutz, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 8-14

  • Marissa Lieberman

    Past Reviewer

    Marissa graduated with her MLS from Queens College, NY in 2011 and is a children’s librarian at the East Orange Public Library, NJ where she gets to share her passion of anime and manga by running the tween anime club, ordering manga and graphic novels, and planning Tosho-con. She organized Tosho-con, the first library anime convention in Nassau County, NY back in 2010 and continues to run this successful convention at her current library. Marissa has written articles and presented about graphic novels, manga and library conventions for School Library Journal, New York Comic Con, and library conferences. She also reviews for School Library Journal and Voices of Youth Advocates.

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