March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Monster Mayhem | Great Read-Alouds for Inspiring Shivers and Giggles

Starring creatures that range from creepy to comical, these not-too-scary offerings are a treat for sharing at Halloween and all year long.

Monsters1 Dining With…Monsters. By Agnese Baruzzi. Illus. by author. White Star. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 978-88-544-0953-8.
PreS-Gr 2–From the “Horrible Monster, Black-As-Coal” who devours “1 spider whole,” to the “Nasty Goblin, Slimy-Sloppers” who ingests “10 poor grasshoppers,” creatively named creatures consume their favorite cuisine. Held vertically, this handsomely designed counting book presents bright and bold close-ups of monster faces. Large flaps drop down to mimic opening mouths, reveal the rest of each rhyming verse, and depict the appropriate number of just-gobbled goodies. Kids will eat this one up.

Monsters2Fright Club. By Ethan Long. Illus. by author. Bloomsbury. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-61963-337-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9781619634190.
PreS-Gr 2–Vladimir the vampire and his fellow monsters are meeting in their tree-house lair on Halloween eve for some much-needed kid-petrifying practice when a sweet-faced bunny knocks at the door and asks to join the Fright Club. Shooed away, the rabbit returns repeatedly with other adorable forest denizens (and a lawyer) in tow, and they soon prove that though they might be “cute little critters,” they know a thing or two about scare tactics. Droll text and dusk-infused illustrations tell a tongue-in-cheek tale of role reversal.

monsters3Have You Seen My Monster? By Steve Light. Illus. by author. Candlewick. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7513-4.
PreS-Gr 2—In this follow-up to Have You Seen My Dragon? (Candlewick, 2014), readers accompany a smiling girl as she searches for her amiable, curlicue-haired monster through the hustle and bustle of a county fair. Pen-and-ink drawings depict the characters and detailed scenery, and a different shape—from triangle to trapezium, square to quatrefoil—is highlighted and identified on each page. An engrossing hide-and-seek adventure with math concepts—and friendship—thrown in for good fun.

monsters4I Will Chomp You! By Jory John. Illus. by Bob Shea. Random. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-385-38986-0; PLB 20.99. ISBN 978-0-385-38987-7; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-385-38989-1.
PreS-Gr 2–A blustering blue creature with a T-rex-style head, stern black-crayon eyes, and teeth galore threatens readers with the title phrase if they persist in turning pages. Despite the bodacious bite downs depicted on delightfully dynamic spreads, the monster manages to miss his intended victims (and a quartet of fleeing cutie-pie critters) again and again. Perfectly paced text and eye-grabbing artwork reveal that this guy will do just about anything—threaten, wheedle, cajole, lie—to protect his stash of yummy cakes, right up to the tale’s satisfying ending.

monsters5The Little Shop of Monsters. By R.L. Stine. Illus. by Marc Brown. Little, Brown. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 978-0-316-36983-1.
K-Gr 3–Readers join two stalwart siblings on a tour of an eerie establishment where they come face-to-snout with all sorts of monsters including growling creatures that try to bite (“That’s their way of saying hello”), the voracious Snacker (don’t shake hands with him because hands are his favorite food), and a pumpkin-colored beastie covered with horns (“Maybe there’s already a hungry Sleeper-Peeper under your bed, just waiting to jump out and scary you”). Comically cryptic text and an imaginatively illustrated menagerie of just-menacing-enough monsters add up to a spine-tingling romp.

monsters6Marilyn’s Monster. By Michelle Knudsen. Illus. by Matt Phelan. Candlewick. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6011-6.
K-Gr 3–Everyone in Marilyn’s class seems to be getting monsters, creatures ranging greatly in size, appearance, and demeanor that choose their particular child when the moment is right: “Your monster had to find you. That’s just the way it worked.” As time passes, and her monster does not materialize, Marilyn becomes more and more worried. Tired of waiting, she decides that she just might need to break the rules to find her heart’s companion. Kid-savvy text and buoyant paintings featuring wonderfully diverse human and non-human characters tell a sweet story of self-empowerment and friendship.

monsters7Monster Trouble! By Lane Fredrickson. Illus. by Michael Robertson. Sterling. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 978-1-4549-1345-0.
PreS-Gr 1–Winifred Schnitzel is not afraid of werewolves or peg-legged pirates, let alone the growling, belching, pointy-toothed monsters that assemble in her room each evening, keeping her awake with their fruitless attempts to frighten her. Stouthearted but sleep-deprived, the girl consults a book about building spook traps, and even designs one of her own, but it is only by chance that she discovers the most effective monster deterrent—a kiss. Sprightly rhyming couplets, giggle-inducing artwork, and a clever heroine make for read-aloud fun.

monsters8Peanut Butter & Brains. By Joe McGee. Illus. by Charles Santoso. Abrams. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-1247-0.
Gr 1-3–As his fellow zombies shuffle through Quirkville single-mindedly searching for “BRAINSSSSS,” independent-thinker Reginald dreams about eating sticky, gooey… “PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLYYYY.” When he finally tracks down the yearned-for sandwich—in the jelly-stained lunch bag of little Abigail Zink (brainiest girl in town)—he seizes the delicacy and shares it with the rest of the drooling horde, an act that improves zombie-townsfolk relations immensely. Narrative and visual humor abound in this nonfrightening tale starring a cast of eerie but endearing undead.

Scarecrow Magic. By Ed Masessa. Illus. by Matt Myers. Scholastic/Orchard. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-69109-3.monsters9
Gr 1-3–Mysterious magic imbues a crisp autumn night as “a man made of straw” begins to move finger and jaw, loosens the ropes that bind him to a fence, and slips out of his skin. Stripped down to his skeleton frame, he joins “ghoulies and ghosties” to frolic in the moonlight, play hide-and-seek and other games, and snack on slimy worms, before the sun rises and he returns to his post. Rhythmic verses and slightly sinister dark-hued artwork set an atmospheric tone for this gleefully eerie read-aloud.

monsters10There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider. By Jennifer Ward. Illus. by Steve Gray. Amazon/Two Lions. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1477826379.
PreS-Gr 2–The familiar song is transformed into a merry monster mash as an Egyptian mummy gulps down a spider, rat, skeleton bone, witch, and more with rib-tickling aplomb. Ward’s text never misses a beat and Gray’s slick cartoon artwork is jam-packed with giddy google-eyed characters, comically creepy atmosphere, and riotous action.

monsters11Worst in Show. By William Bee. Illus. by Kate Hindley. Candlewick. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7318-5.
PreS-Gr 2–Sweater vest–wearing Albert enters his moss-green monster in a contest broadcast live on TV. However, enthusiasm turns to embarrassment as Sidney comes in last in every category, including hairiest warts (pink-cheeked Sidney only has freckles), smelliest fart (a diet of frosted cookies and cupcakes results in only a subtle sugary scent), and hottest breath (he can barely warm up a single party sausage). Receiving the lowest scores in 100 years, Sidney is named “Worst in Show,” but rather than feel ashamed, Albert counts himself lucky to have a big, cuddly, lovable best friend. Humorously grandiose text and festive and funny artwork deliver a positive message with a light touch.

monsters12Zombie in Love 2 + 1. By Kelly DiPucchio. Illus. by Scott Campbell. S. & S./Atheneum. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5937-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9781442459380.
K-Gr 4–The ghoulish sweethearts from Zombie in Love (S. & S., 2011) return, thrilled to welcome a new addition, but also “scared to death” to be new parents. Sonny is a fussy eater (disdaining baby-food jars of “Bat Pudding” and “Strained Brains”), his teeth are coming in instead of falling out, and, worst of all, he remains “awake all day” and sleeps through the night. Never fear, Mortimer and Mildred persevere with love and plenty of patience until their monster family settles into a contentedly gruesome routine. Text and artwork abound with ghastly guffaws and amiable affection.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.