Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reviews: A Monstrous Mouthful of Children's Picture Books

 Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

What is it attracts children to books and videos about monsters? Is it the fact that illustrators go wild with the gross factor and kids love gross? Is it that there’s a little hint of actual remembered fear shadowing, even enhancing children’s delight? Whatever the reason, we know for sure that children love to share, shudder over, and read books about monsters. Here are six children’s picture books with a monsterish theme, each one potentially ready to intrigue or comfort a child near you!

Monster Chef by Nick Bland, was published by Scholastic Press, 2014. RRP: $Au 24.99. Bland gives us the tale of Marcel the monster who, try though he might, just wasn’t scary. Luckily, he loves to cook, and soon discovers it’s his culinary creations that terrify kids. And so, Monster Chef is born and he opens a restaurant called Monster’s Delight, where the absolute pi├Ęce to resist is boiled brussels sprouts! The energetic rhyme and rhythm of the story, together with the colourful and expressive illustrations, make this a fine addition to your picture book collection.

Have You Seen My Monster is a children’s picture book by Steve Light, published by Walker Books, 2015. RRP: $Au24.95. If I were to explain to you that this picture book helps children gain a concept of many different geometric shapes, would your eyes glaze over as you suspect one of those ghastly stories that preach to kids? Rest assured! Shape recognition is more of a visual game in this book, as well as an opportunity to contrast colour with black and white line drawings. It’s almost incidental to the story which actually doesn’t have a lot of text but relies on questions to pull kids into a narrative about looking for a pet monster at the Fair. The monster himself is very cute. Kids will not only giggle over his antics, but relish finding him in each spread. I loved Light’s artwork, particularly the detail and humour in it, and I am so-o-o-o- looking forward to sharing this with my preschool kids at Storytime.

Ten Monsters in the Bed by Katie Cotton and Aaron Blecha, was published by Koala Books, 2014. RRP: $Au 14.99. The monsters are cute, but their activities certainly plumb that gross factor I mentioned above. Kids will snigger over all the burps, belches and farts and no doubt enjoy the mould, dribble and snot. The ten monsters finally end up on the floor, and there’s counting practice and many visual details to exclaim over. I know children who will dive on this book and beg for it again and again.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett, was published by Koala Books, 2014. RRP: $Au14.99. Orion’s story isn’t strictly speaking about monsters. Like many other intelligent and sensitive kids, Orion IS afraid of monsters, and lots of other things in this very scary world we call home. But his greatest fear is the Dark. Until he meets Dark, a friendly, blobbish non-monster, and they explore Orion’s fears. Yarlett has created a gorgeous visual feast, including two pop-outs, with lots of humour and detail for kids to explore. See sample pages at her website.

Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, published by Simon and Schuster. RRP: $Au 14.99.  This vibrantly colourful children’s picture book hooks kids from two perspectives: both monsters AND underpants. Giggle heaven! The story is a simple one, written in strong rhyme and rhythm to help young readers memorise. We read about all the different monsters and their knicker-nicking, and see them at a dance party.

Monster by Michael Rosen and Neal Layton, published by Bloomsbury, 2015. RRP:$14.99. In this exuberant children’s picture book, Rosen, ably abetted by Layton, shows us a dog’s perspective on Life. When his small human, Rover, goes off to school for the first time, the dog decides she has not only been abandoned there but is trapped by a monster - the teacher. There are laughs galore for parents as well as kids in Monster, and I predict both will love the quirky and energetic illustrations.

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