Several years ago, I told my second grade students I used to have a pet monkey named Zacharia, similar to Frida Kahlo’s pet monkey, and I used to teach lessons with Zacharia perched on my shoulder. The story continued that after many classroom mishaps, my head of school told me that I was no longer allowed to bring Zacharia into school.
My co-teacher, Mandy Kimlick, played along. For the rest of that school year, we told stories about the horrible things Zacharia had done to us, past students, and the classroom. A lot of potty humor was involved. When things went missing, we pretended that maybe Zacharia had come back and taken them.
No matter how ridiculous we made these stories, the students always insisted we fess up and tell them we were spinning yarns. We never did. We insisted the stories were true.
After awhile, I decided to wrangle these ridiculous stories into a cohesive narrative. I self-published Zacharia: School Monkey.
The admittedly fictional plot line goes like this:
Mr. Ben hopes that teaching with a monkey on his shoulder will energize his classroom and make him look iconic like Frida Kahlo. Instead, his pet monkey, Zacharia, causes a food fight and a flatulence-induced evacuation.
Mimi is a new student and loves learning, but that’s hard to do with an unruly monkey at school. Knowing her teacher’s love of Frida Kahlo is partly to blame for the classroom chaos, Mimi studies the famous artist and monkey owner.
She develops a deep appreciation for Kahlo and sympathy for Mr. Ben. Before Mimi can figure out her next move, Animal Control raids the school causing a monkey-chasing melee. When it’s over, Zacharia is imprisoned, Mimi has a broken hip, and Mr. Ben is in trouble with the parents’ committee.
Mimi must figure out how to free Zacharia and save her teacher’s job, and she thinks she’s found an answer in Frida Kahlo’s biography.
I hope there are kids out there who enjoy this book as much as my students did!