In this mildly scary, funny picture book, a mom’s bedtime-story ploy encourages her little boy to clean up his messy room or risk attracting the attention of a hungry “sock monster.”
In her first picture book, author Campbell (Scream: A Lakeview Novel, 2015) imparts a tidy-up lesson with gentle humor, enhanced by artist Thieme’s quirky illustrations. Little Billy’s idea of picking up his dirty laundry at the end of the day is to stuff it under the bed and in any available closet or corner. When Billy asks for a scary bedtime story, his mom, a savvy sort who isn’t above using a tricky scare tactic to make a point, decides the time is right for a particularly apt tale about a sneaky, slithery, laundry-hungry Sock Monster with a penchant for hiding under beds with found footwear. (The book’s target audience will undoubtedly get “ew, gross” enjoyment out of Campbell’s description: “his head is made of underwear. His arms are dirty socks.” And, “he slurps and burps and gathers dirt, loving all the goo.”) Billy’s not thrilled with the direction the story takes, and when Mom says goodnight and turns off the light, he, unsurprisingly, has trouble going to sleep, imagining that every sound—dog scratching, pet mouse squeaking—is the Sock Monster, attracted by Billy’s messy “clean-up.” Billy knows that there is just one thing to do. He gathers up all of his potential Sock Monster fodder and fills his laundry basket. Humorously, the author doesn’t let Mom rest easy on her laurels, however. Adults will appreciate the fun little visual twist at the end, courtesy of illustrator Thieme, which gives Mom a taste of her own medicine. (Kids will, too, although they may need the joke explained to them.) Indeed, the appeal of this lighthearted “message” picture book is due in great part to the offbeat charm of Thieme’s colorful illustrations.
An unexpected twist and wacky, well-rendered illustrations keep this simple picture book from skewing a bit preachy and dark, despite its clean-your-room lesson.