A gentle reminder of the danger of preconceived notions.

READ REVIEW

FELIX AND THE MONSTERS

A guard halfheartedly does his job but deep inside has a musical soul.

Felix’s job is to guard a wall and keep his side safe from the monsters on the other side. But what he really likes to do is rock out on his keytar and pretend he is in a band. None of the other guards understand his passion. Instead of wielding a spear or a shield, Felix grabs his keytar and plays “epic solos.” One day, someone joins him. Sounds of a bass guitar float over from the other side of the wall! A small, red, saucer-eared creature named Dot has been “lured…by the beautiful sounds of that portable piano machine.” The temptation to create sweet beats together is too strong—Felix jump to Dot’s side of the wall, and they jam. Felix finds a shocking revelation: The monsters are not monstrous at all. When his fellow guards come crashing in, ready to save him, Felix isn’t sure he wants to go back. In the illustrations, on Felix’s side, everything has sharp, blocklike angles (even the guards). On Dot’s side everything is rounded and smooth. Blue, thimble-shaped Felix himself is a combination of both aesthetics. The conclusion rushes toward happiness and reads a bit slapdash, but it is winsome just the same. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 47% of actual size.)

A gentle reminder of the danger of preconceived notions. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11052-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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