A boy tackles his under-the-bed nighttime monster and his insecurities with curiosity, kindness, and a bit of wisdom.
Alone in his bed at night, Leo, a white boy, confronts his fear head-on and directly addresses the monster that lurks beneath. The two begin to talk, and, much to the monster’s pleasure, Leo kindly gives him the name Fred. A mutual understanding develops when Fred explains that scaring Leo is his job. Seemingly unimpressed, Leo does get a bit frightened when Fred turns into a roaring lion, a fang-toothed snake, and a fire-breathing dragon. Back in bed in the dark with only eyes visible, Leo wisely compliments Fred as the two settle in. “You’re very good at your job.” Then: “ ‘Sleep tight,’ said Leo. ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ / ‘Bugs?’ said Fred. ‘There are bugs?’ ” Quirky, expressive cartoon digital artwork captures both the anxiety and humor exhibited in the dialogue-heavy short sentences and chapters. Leo’s newly acquired companion eventually helps him to conquer an aggressive playmate (also white) and to confidently present his show-and-tell school assignment. In the first of a new series, this extended version of Mercer Mayer’s classic There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) incorporates themes of friendship, bullying, and school angst, offers satisfying conclusions, and gives readers good reason to empathize with Leo and his alter ego, Fred.
A welcome new pair of friends for the chapter-book set. (Fiction. 7-9)