Monster School

illus. by Lee Gatlin. 40p. Chronicle. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452129389.
K-Gr 3—Coombs dips a proverbial hairy toe into the world of endearingly frightful poetry in this collection for young elementary schoolers. The eerie tales begin with an introduction to the monstrous academy: "climb up the wistful, mistful hill/where weeping gargoyles sit/Slip past the gloomful, moonful graves/where small ghosts peer and flit," continuing with poetic portraits the dreadful pupils. "Monster Mash" spotlights a "multicultural" monster whose ancestors had "zapping things, enormous wings, dressed in green, and [were] just a little mean." Readers will find particular delight in the antics of the "Class Pet," who escapes its cage to eat its way through town. When the final poem, "New Kid," begins, readers may be curious why a seemingly human boy would willingly join the raucous crew, but as he explains, "Sometimes kids try to scare me/with a spider or a skull/yeah, they'll think I'm ordinary/until the moon is full." The combination of Coombs' clever verse with comic artist Gatlin's illustrations is picture-perfect. A delightful cast of both humanoid and monstrous creatures, depicted in lush color and rough lines, evokes a full depiction of the school. While a couple of the poems may bump in places, their sum total is both creepy and endearing.
VERDICT A wonderful addition to poetry and storybook shelves all year round.

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