Monster Picture Books (2012)

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In our neighborhood, it is definitely Halloween season: pumpkins, Halloween parties, bags of leaves. In honor of the season, I think it would be appropriate to share some of the “monster” books on the Cybils 2012 nomination list.  Here are three that I’ve enjoyed so far.

Time Out for Monsters by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Disney Hyperion, 2012) is the story of a boy’s imagination. An unnamed boy is sent to his time-out chair, and he dreams of what would make his otherwise boring corner more exciting. On the top of his list is, of course, a monster, a monster truck, and even a fire engine. In the crayon-like brush and ink illustrations, the reader can follow along with his adventure. The twist at the end was clever, and the boy’s ending creation is a delightful reminder that even in a boring corner, during a time out, we can have an adventure if we use our imagination. Kid thoughts (age 5): I didn’t like it. [spoiler] I didn’t like that he wrote on the walls.

Spike, the Mixed-up Monster by Susan Hood and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Simon & Schuster, 2012) tells about a monster who wants to be scary. The problem is that Spike is an axolotl, a tiny Mexican salamander that really is not very scary. None of the other pond friends are afraid of him. When a monster arrives (a Gila poisonous lizard), Spike is able to stop him from scaring the others, but not in the way he intended!

A cute story about our own unique talents, friendship, and Mexican animal relationships, Spike, the Mixed-up Monster is also a bilingual book, with a smattering of Spanish vocabulary, interspersed throughout the story. Although I normally like this, someone about it in this book didn’t jive for me. Maybe I felt that way because “Spike” isn’t a Spanish name from the beginning, so the Spanish seemed out of place. I wasn’t expecting it. Unexpected is okay, though, because the book is a nice one overall.

The illustrations are watercolors and gouache, capturing the adorable Spike in just the right way. A bonus is the addition of facts about axolotl, Gila monsters, and Spike’s other friends, as well as a basic glossary of Spanish words. Kid thoughts: It was a little mixed up with the Spanish and the English! I liked the story.

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell  (Little Brown, 2012) is another book with adorable creatures who want to be monsters. Grouch, Grump, and Gloom ‘n’ Doom can’t decide who is the scariest monster, so they decide to make their own scary monster. But when their Frankenstein-like experiment succeeds, they find their monster is just as adorable and polite as they are, saying “Thank you!” and asking for donuts, not storming around causing mayhem.

Since I recently read the original Frankenstein, I was delighted how The Monsters’ Monster actually focused on similar issues: that the monster just wants to be alive, enjoy life, and find friends. Shelley’s monster likewise was nearly human. The difference in McDonnell’s picture book is that the community doesn’t seem to flinch when the large green creation asks for jelly donuts. I also loved the ending, when Grouch, Grump, and Gloom ‘n’ Doom come to peace with themselves, thanks to their new friendly monster. The illustrations give the book delightful friendliness. These are monsters that any child will love.

Kid thoughts: I didn’t like it. I don’t have a reason. [ETA 10/27: Raisin has been saying “Dank you!” instead of “Thank you!” all day. He laughs hilariously when I suggest he’s being a monster. So apparently I caught him in a bad mood. From what he’s said since Thursday, I suspect he really liked this book! It’s stayed with him even days later.]

Which picture book is your favorite “monster” book for kids?

Reviewed on October 25, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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