A rhyming bullying tale with some worthwhile lessons.

READ REVIEW

MONSTER NEEDS TO GO TO SCHOOL

From the Monster & Me series

Monster and his little boy tackle Monster’s first day of school.

The big blue beast, resembling one of Sendak’s Wild Things, is a quivering mess at the thought of school, but he quickly settles in and begins to learn and enjoy himself—until he observes his classmates bullying another kid, that is. “He made some friends at recess, who invited him to play. / But when he saw them teasing, he spoke up without delay. / ‘I know we’re friends, but teasing’s wrong. / It’s something I despise, / No one should be ridiculed. There is no compromise.’ ” At these words, his new friends change their ways. Readers may point out that it’s easy for a big blue monster to stand up to bullies but harder for regular kids, but the fact that Monster has feelings just like them will go a long way to making this credible, and Czajak spells it out when he writes “The teasing stopped when Monster / said he wouldn’t go along.” Grieb’s digital artwork plays up Monster’s size and expressions, and the class is diverse. Young readers may need their own educations to tackle some of the vocabulary here—“motivation,” “pursue,” “monumental”—and the rhyming text sometimes stumbles. Still, Monster’s message is an important one, and his boy has a valuable point: “It’s hard to deal with bullies, even harder / when they’re friends.”

A rhyming bullying tale with some worthwhile lessons. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-938063-74-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Mighty Media

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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