What if that new kid in the park is not a boy at all? What if….
Even though Mom always tells the young narrator not to talk to strangers, when they go to the park together, she encourages her child to say hello to various random people. “That lady over there…with only pigeons to talk to” looks very friendly. And that little boy with the pail and shovel seems “perfectly safe.” Her child is not so sure. What if the boy is a “MONSTER in disguise?” Maybe there’s a secret cave under the sand where this boy/monster has lured many children. The captured children tend the monster’s “pet moles, and clean his floor, and comb his fur, and cook his horrible, slimy dinner.” An escape plan forms: The children dig a tunnel to safety. But what if they emerge in a panther’s cage? Maybe the panther won’t like the taste of humans, and they can help her escape, as well. When they get back home, their parents will be so happy to see them they’ll let them stay home from school and never make them talk to strangers again. Beauvais’ twisty tale, translated from French and substantial for a picture book, is well-matched by Shearring’s busy and colorful illustrations. The narrator is depicted as white, and the monster’s other hypothetical victims are a diverse bunch. Children will love the details of the monster’s underground lair.
Admirably imaginative. (Picture book. 5-7)