While the subjects and daily schedule may look familiar, the students at Monster School are a bit different.
Take Stevie, for example. He’s a zombie, and he’s always losing things. Sharp-eyed readers may be able to spy his homework—still at the end of his arm in the corner—or maybe his missing eye. And “multicultural” has a rather different connotation when trolls, elves, witches, and boggarts make up your family tree. But many of the topics Coombs writes about seem more like middle school probs than those of picture-book readers: a girl other students moon over, an introvert, a queen-bee mummy who secretly wishes to be a commoner so she could play, a nerdy “Computer Wizard,” hair care (the individual strands are snakes), and a poor “Ghost Girl’s Lament” (she cries in the coat closet from loneliness and failure to haunt anyone). Other poems are typical of school collections: a gross-out one about cafeteria food; one about baseball (albeit with a few extra obstacles—avoid the ghouls and don’t trip on tombstones); and the requisite poem about homework—when one is dead, there’s not much incentive for doing it. Gatlin’s illustrations play up the gross and macabre in the small details—monkey in the middle with a head for a ball—and he certainly can’t be said to fail at portraying diversity.
Middle graders will shiver over this angst-y collection of school verses. (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)