By the last page, Blinsh feels like the real happiest place on Earth.

VAMPIRES OF BLINSH

The vampires of Blinsh may be the most hopeful monsters in all of literature.

Pretty much everyone in Blinsh, Pinksylvania, eats doughnuts, including the creatures of the night. This is true even though they come in flavors like “boiled turnip and sauerkraut.” And yet, Pinkwater notes, “the Blinshites keep buying them and eating them, hoping it will be better this time. It never is.” Nevertheless, the vampires in this picture book are cheerful in general, possibly because they can float in the air, although, as the text points out: “Numerous normal-type Pinksylvanians have learned to do this for short periods, perhaps from vampire neighbors?” This is one of the more eventful passages in the book. If there’s a plot, it may escape the average reader. The book is mostly a travel guide to Blinsh and its environs, but the pages are utterly packed with detail. It might not be possible to get all of the in-jokes. A map of the town shows “Wallywood Amusement Park,” which could be a reference to a cartoonist, the filmmaking capitol of the United States, or even Dollywood (probably not Dollywood). If there is a protagonist, it’s Mr. Papooshnik, who bears a resemblance to the White, Jewish author of the book; the town as a whole is quite diverse. Fans of cult artists may be pleased that the pictures look, faintly, like the gigantic, cartoonish sculptures of Red Grooms. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.7% of actual size.)

By the last page, Blinsh feels like the real happiest place on Earth. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4681-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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

HOW I MET MY MONSTER

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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Kid-friendly dark humor.

POULTRYGEIST

The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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