The book is brilliant in its confirmation of an essential truth of childhood, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling,...

WHAT THERE IS BEFORE THERE IS ANYTHING THERE

A SCARY STORY

A lad is tormented by existential boojums every night in this comically eerie variation on a common bedtime trope.

No sooner do his parents bid him sweet dreams and switch off the light than the ceiling becomes “a black hole…black and infinite”—through which float small creatures of diverse shape who stand around his bed and stare at him fixedly. At last, the arrival of a slit-eyed blot that reaches out with twiggy tentacles and whispers, “I am what there is before there is anything there,” sends him pelting toward the parental bedroom. “It’s just your imagination,” soothes his mother, oblivious to the creature that floats into view on the last page. Liniers depicts the grown-ups from neck down to create a child-level perspective, but his dot-eyed, angst-ridden protagonist could be any age. Heavily crosshatched shadows and nighttime visitors with mildly grotesque features add appropriately spooky notes. Snuggling between parents (“But this is the last time”) banishes those boogeymen, right? Wrong.

The book is brilliant in its confirmation of an essential truth of childhood, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling, though possibly more for adult readers than for children . (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-385-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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The story could use a little more internal logic, but Judge’s art stands out. (Picture book. 6-8)

THE LONELY BEAST

Like one of Sendak’s wild things embarking on a journey of its own, the hairy monster in this boiled-down quest tale abruptly sets out for parts unknown.

Being a featureless, tree-sized black silhouette with two yellow eyes, the solitary Beast looks menacing but leads a peaceable existence in a remote forest. Responding to a sudden yen for companionship, he departs one day on a long trek over land and under sea—arriving at last, after many adventures, in a city whose residents quickly get over their initial terror to make him welcome as a gardener in the local park. Being lonely still, he broadcasts public appeals in hopes of reaching others of his kind, then, when that gets no response, sets out again, retracing his original route. Using what looks like paint and cut-paper collage, Judge creates open settings in artfully contrasted colors and textures that give his central figure both a strong visual presence and an enigmatic air carrying hints of deeper meanings. Or maybe not: The Beast arrives back in his garden to find that other Beasts have gathered from all over the world to throw him a surprise party and to stick around forever after for nightly wild rumpuses.

The story could use a little more internal logic, but Judge’s art stands out. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8097-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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An excellent monster largely wasted by an uninspired storyline.

THE TREASURE OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER

TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH TALES

Two children discover the truth in a pair of Loch Ness legends.

Spinning an original story around local folklore, Don sends two cousins, Kenneth and Ishbel, rowing across the loch from their impoverished granny’s cottage to the ruins of Urquhart Castle—where, it is said, behind two identical hidden doors lie treasure or poison. No sooner do they come ashore below the ruins than a brass key washes up (sharp-eyed viewers will spot a finny tail poking up through the waves), and doors appear. The children make their choice and it’s the wrong one…but then they get to make another and find a trove of golden eggs. On the row back they are intercepted by a huge monster that smashes their boat, reclaims the eggs, and finally carries the children to safety. Along with atmospheric views of the deep loch’s swirling waters and long, low hills beneath cloudy skies, Ilincic crafts a particularly magnificent monster, green, scaly, and dragonesque. But the sketchy, patched-together narrative doesn’t measure up to the illustrations, as the author gives her characters stilted dialogue (“If we found the treasure under the castle, we could buy food”) and contrived mulligans, leaves the backstories of both the eggs and the children untold, and doesn’t let the glittering tale of the encounter be the young folks’ reward. Kenneth and Ishbel are both white.

An excellent monster largely wasted by an uninspired storyline. (source note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78250-485-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kelpies

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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