A true, monstrous success! (Picture book. 5-9)

A been-there-done-that just-try-to-impress-me boy gets his wish to “be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and terribly hairy!”

“Master Edgar Dreadbury found Halloween a bore.” He’s not interested in costumes—he seeks transformation. A mysterious machine called the MONSTERATOR—a cross between a sideshow amusement and a steampunk invention—beckons. After much rumbling, clanging and hissing, the machine disgorges Edgar, now a fearsome roaring monster. With horns, grimacing purple face, orange brows and green reptilian hands, feet and tail, he is a frightening sight—and he loves it. Although he tries to find the machine after Halloween to reverse the transformation, he is unsuccessful. Happily, he soon grows “fond of his freakish new features” and to “[relish] his role as a monstrous creature.” Graves dares here to explore a child’s dark side, and the result is a refreshingly original yet wondrously creepy tale. Superb for reading aloud, the story also poses topics for discussion. Why does he want to frighten everyone so much? Should you be careful about what you wish for? Readers throughout the book are rewarded with moody gray scenes punctuated with bright hues to draw focus to the machine or the monster, greatly enhancing this page-turner. Though it’s already eerily impressive with its elegant design, an added treat is a paper version of a monsterator with a flippable split-page novelty element at the book’s end.

A true, monstrous success! (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-855-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014


From the How To Catch… series

Only for dedicated fans of the series.

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


These reindeer games are a bit tired but, given the series’ popularity, should have a large, ready-made audience.

The How to Catch A… crew try for Comet.

Having already failed to nab a Halloween witch, the Easter Bunny, a turkey, a leprechaun, the Tooth Fairy, and over a dozen other iconic trophies in previous episodes of this bestselling series, one would think the racially diverse gaggle of children in Elkerton’s moonlit, wintry scenes would be flagging…but no, here they lay out snares ranging from a loop of garland to an igloo baited with reindeer moss to an enticing candy cane maze, all in hopes of snagging one of Santa’s reindeer while he’s busy delivering presents. Infused with pop culture–based Christmas cheer (“Now I’ve already seen the shelf with the elf”), Comet prances past the traps until it’s time to gather up the kids, most of whom look terrified, for a group snapshot with the other reindeer and then climb back into harness: “This was a great stop but a few million to go / Christmas Eve must continue with style!” Though festive, the verse feels trite and unlikely to entice youngsters. A sprinkling of “True Facts About Reindeer” (“They live in the tundra, where they have friends like the arctic bunny”) wrap up this celebration of the predatory spirit. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

These reindeer games are a bit tired but, given the series’ popularity, should have a large, ready-made audience. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 9781728276137

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2022

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