Marilyn's Monster

illus. by Matt Phelan. 40p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763660116. LC 2014944904.
K-Gr 3—One of the poignancies of childhood is the waiting—for a loose tooth, to ride a bike, to learn to read. Knudsen's brilliantly simple narrative and Phelan's whimsical pencil and watercolor drawings speak to the universal need for belonging and the anxiety born of impatience. The story's opening sentence sets up the plot: "Some of the kids in Marilyn's class had monsters. It was the latest thing." These pet monsters each seek out just the right child, and that takes time, so at first Marilyn isn't worried about not having one of her own. But the longer she waits the less patient she is; she adjusts her appearance and behavior hoping to attract it and then tries to convince herself that having one doesn't matter anyway. "But they were pretty great. She could see that they were…." So finally, against the advice of her know-it-all older brother (his monster sits on his head like a squishy baseball hat), Marilyn takes matters in her own hands. She packs a lunch and sets out to find her monster—which happens to have gotten stuck in a tree while trying to find her. Every one of Phelan's monsters is wonderfully weird, and readers will have fun noting similarities between them and their human friends.
VERDICT Pair this story with Mo Willems's Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (Hyperion, 2005) and Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos (Little, Brown, 2002) for a ready-made guidance lesson or a fun storytime with built-in text-to-self connections.

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