A true, monstrous success! (Picture book. 5-9)


A been-there-done-that just-try-to-impress-me boy gets his wish to “be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and terribly hairy!”

“Master Edgar Dreadbury found Halloween a bore.” He’s not interested in costumes—he seeks transformation. A mysterious machine called the MONSTERATOR—a cross between a sideshow amusement and a steampunk invention—beckons. After much rumbling, clanging and hissing, the machine disgorges Edgar, now a fearsome roaring monster. With horns, grimacing purple face, orange brows and green reptilian hands, feet and tail, he is a frightening sight—and he loves it. Although he tries to find the machine after Halloween to reverse the transformation, he is unsuccessful. Happily, he soon grows “fond of his freakish new features” and to “[relish] his role as a monstrous creature.” Graves dares here to explore a child’s dark side, and the result is a refreshingly original yet wondrously creepy tale. Superb for reading aloud, the story also poses topics for discussion. Why does he want to frighten everyone so much? Should you be careful about what you wish for? Readers throughout the book are rewarded with moody gray scenes punctuated with bright hues to draw focus to the machine or the monster, greatly enhancing this page-turner. Though it’s already eerily impressive with its elegant design, an added treat is a paper version of a monsterator with a flippable split-page novelty element at the book’s end.

A true, monstrous success! (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-855-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.


A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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


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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