Have the art table and smocks ready.

MY MONSTERPIECE

An unseen first-person narrator tries to draw scary beasts.

“I want to make the scariest monster ever!” opens the protagonist, planning to give the creature “a long, green tongue” so it will be “a monster masterpiece—MY MONSTERPIECE!” The first spread shows paints, brushes, and the abstract beginnings of the monster. The second spread shows the finished piece of art. What go unseen, though the text mentions them, are the human characters. The protagonist tries to spook Mom with the picture, but instead she’s enchanted: “I love this chubby kitty,” she says. Three more iterations use the same structure: Protagonist draws a monster with a seemingly scary feature (pointy horns, sharp teeth, claws) and fails to frighten loved ones, who all cheerfully misidentify and mischaracterize the images (“Great job painting an owl!” says Dad; “It’s so cute!” says sister). No humans appear visually until the end, and even then they are child-style stick figures, and a concluding twist in which monsters draw scary kids is more confusing than compelling. Due to these factors, the appeal of this book lies in Hoffman’s portrayal of artistic media. Backgrounds are graph paper, patterned papers, and (perhaps) a lilac-painted board; crayons, paints, pencils, and collages are shown lushly mid-use; scissors, fabrics, and pompoms make vivid cameos. The monster-creation plot is fun, but this is more an invitation to make art.

Have the art table and smocks ready. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953458-01-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Yeehoo Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone.

HOW I MET MY MONSTER

From the I Need My Monster series

In a tardy prequel to I Need My Monster (2009), candidates for that coveted spot under the bed audition.

As the distressingly unflappable young narrator looks on, one monster after another gives it a go—but even with three mouths, the best roar Genghis can manage is a puny “blurp!”, silly shadow puppets by shaggy Morgan elicit only a sneeze, and red Abigail’s attempt to startle by hiding in the fridge merely leaves her shivering and pathetic. Fortunately, there’s Gabe, who knows just how to turn big and hairy while lurking outside the bathroom and whose red-eyed stare and gross drooling sends the lad scrambling into bed to save his toes. “Kid, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” the toothy terror growls. Right he is, the lad concludes, snuggling down beneath the covers: “His snorts and ooze were perfect.” As usual, the white-presenting child’s big, bright, smiling face and the assortment of bumbling monsters rendered in oversaturated hues keep any actual scariness at tentacle’s length. Moreover, Monster, Inc. fans will delight in McWilliam’s painstaking details of fang, claw, hair, and scales.

Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947277-09-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flashlight Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time.

SHE WANTED TO BE HAUNTED

Which cottage would stand out more in a real estate ad: cute or…haunted?

Clarissa the sentient cottage dislikes cuteness; as a pink, adorable haven for flowers and squirrels, she’s bored. She yearns to be scary and haunted like her father, a gloomy castle, and her mother, a smelly, vermin-infested witch’s hut. Dad gladly donates clouds but tells Clarissa it’s OK to be herself. The clouds are a bust because they bring rain, which brings forth…a rainbow, plants, and birds. Mom supplies a reeking bottle whose contents allegedly repel living things. Clarissa opens it but…attracts playful dogs. Finally abandoning her desire for a ghostly boarder, Clarissa invites her animals to remain. At the end, a particular creature’s unexpected arrival—and its most uncharacteristic behavior—reveal Clarissa’s true nature: horrible and cute. And she’s just fine with that. This rhyming story is certainly an unusual take on the finding-oneself trope. The bouncy verses mostly read and scan well, include sophisticated vocabulary, and provide Clarissa with a spunky, appealing personality. Different typefaces represent the voices of Clarissa, each parent, and the narrator. The cheerful, lively illustrations are very colorful but a trifle twee; Clarissa and her parents are differentiated through vivid pinks, dreary shades, and anthropomorphic faces. Nature blossoms via bright depictions of flowers, trees, animals, and birds.

Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-791-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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