SANTA CLAWS

Monster Town is the setting for this mischievously macabre Christmas story, which will appeal to fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The over-the-top story is told in rhyming couplets that beg to be read aloud in a deep, spooky voice with dramatic pauses for effect. Two monster boys, Mack and Zack, are getting ready for Christmas, decorating with skulls and bones and whipping up some poisonberry pies and eggnog mixed with spider feet for Santa’s treats. Santa Claws is an amorphous figure in a bulging, “blood-red” suit with a snake in his boot and horns poking out around his hat. He arrives by dragon power and leaves plenty of “gross and grisly Christmas toys” around the dead pine tree decorated with eyeballs. Aptly named illustrator Grimly provides watercolor-and-ink illustrations in a muted palette that strike just the right balance: weirdly edgy but not too terribly scary. Additional humor is added to the endpapers and back cover with ads for invented products such as “Vampbell’s Garbage Soup.” A tasty Christmas treat for kids who like their humor gross and their satires snappy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8118-4992-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… 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 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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THE UGLY PUMPKIN

A club-shaped pumpkin gets dissed by a customer, all the other pumpkins, even twisted apple trees, before the sight of a motley crop of hubbards, acorns and banana squash brings on a personal epiphany: “O my gosh / I’m a squash.” Endowed with a face and stick limbs, the gnarled narrator sits down at a Thanksgiving table with its new soulmates, then is last seen strolling down the lane hand in hand with a lumpy new friend. Written in doggerel—“A skeleton came for pumpkins / one bright and crispy day. / I asked if I could get a ride . . . / He laughed and said: No Way”—and illustrated in brightly colored paint-and-paper collage, this weak riff on the “Ugly Duckling” may not earn high marks for botanical accuracy (all pumpkins are squash), but it does feature plenty of visual flash. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-24267-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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