Baby Monster (Andrea Pfeiffer & Erin Barker)

Hello, friends! Spooky season has officially begun! To celebrate, we’ll be reviewing a spoooooky book every Friday for the month of October. First up: Baby Monster by Andrea Pfeiffer and Erin Barker, a hilarious spin on new parenthood.

On a dark and stormy night, a scientist couple decides that their next experiment should be the creation of a monster – a baby monster, complete with green scaly skin and a long pointy tail. They are successful in their endeavor, and briefly celebrate before quickly realizing the responsibility of having a baby monster: feedings, stinky diapers, overtired tantrums, and massive messes. Yet even as worn out and frazzled as they become, they find themselves enamored of their little monster, especially while cuddling and playing. And when they realize that, despite the stress, their dear little monster has made them a family, they ponder if they should move on the next experiment: a sibling.

Clever and cute. This delightful twist on the classic tale of “bringing home baby” is filled with outrageous comedy that will appeal to both younger readers and their adult caregivers, especially those who remember bringing home their own monster for the first time. The ink-and-watercolor-style illustrations fit the tone of the story perfectly; in particular, the
expressive main characters, from the positively adorable reptilian monster baby to the increasingly exhausted/satisfied parents, even to their possibly Frankenweenie-inspired pet dog, who provides one of the book’s sweetest jokes. There are two times that the phrase “make” is used to reference a baby rather than “have”; it’s not noticeable to young readers, but reading it as an adult elicited a slightly uncomfortable laugh, but that’s a minor quibble. The length is perfect for a storytime, the rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and JJ had a great time with it. This was a fun treat to start out spooky season, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Lula And The Sea Monster (Alex Latimer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer, a nature-loving tale of friendship and courage.

Lula has lived all her life in her cozy home on the beach with her parents, but that’s all about to change. A big highway is being built, and despite protests, Lula and her family must leave. In her final days beachside, Lula wanders the shoreline and tidepools, soaking up her memories and love of her home. It’s during one of these walks that she finds a tiny creature, the tiniest she’s ever seen, attempting to escape a hungry seagull. After chasing off the seagull, moving her new little friend to a safer spot, and sharing a few snacks from her packed lunch, Lula names the tiny, pink squid-like fellow Bean, and promises to return to check on him tomorrow. And sure enough, Bean is there waiting for her the next day – but twice the size he was the day before! With each passing day (and each friendly meal Lula shares with her friend), Bean grows larger and larger, soon towering over the little girl, until the day he seems to simply disappear. That afternoon, as Lula’s parents are packing up their home and the bulldozers are bearing down on them, the young girl is suddenly fed up with this intrusion, and faces down the machines on behalf of the creatures of the shoreline… along with a rather LARGE surprise visitor who comes to support her protest.

Very cute. The story is a nice lesson in the importance of every tiny creature, and the equal importance of our kindness to them. It’s a message that can be taken both literally and figuratively, and results in a happy ending for all involved by the end (except, perhaps, the frightened bulldozer operators). The resolution is a little telegraphed, but counters this with a touch of wry humor and a great deal of heart; the bond between the adorable-at-any-size Bean and Lula is undeniably charming. The artwork is sweet, yet captures the tone of the oceanside setting and even the high stakes for Lula’s family very well through choices in color and shadow. The length is perfect, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A heartwarming environmentalist tale with a twist, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Not So Quiet Library (Zachariah OHora)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah OHora, a delightfully offbeat tale about the joys of libraries and books.

In the home of brothers Theodore (a little boy) and Oskar (a bear), Saturdays are the best day of the week. After all, Dad starts the day by bringing them to the bakery for fresh donuts, and then it’s off to the library! Theodore and Oskar head straight for the kid’s section (Dad heads straight for the “Nap” section), and happily settle in for some quality storytime. That is until a five-headed monster named Seymour/Chuck/Winston/Pat/Bob interrupts by making a racket. And doing what, you ask? Why, EATING BOOKS! Unfortunately, they find the taste rather displeasing, even after loading the texts with condiments. When Theodore explains that books are for reading and not eating, the cranky monster decides that they will eat the brothers instead! It’s going to take some quick thinking and some leftover donuts to get out of this one! Or perhaps a storytime may do the trick instead…

Silly, quirky fun. OHora has a knack for creating stories that are filled with simple, original plots and the type of oddball humor that kids love. This tale is no different, somehow managing to capture the joy of spending a quiet day at the library in a story about monster(s) who pour sprinkles and mustard on books to improve their taste. And not to worry, SeChWiPaBo (my own abbreviation) does come to realize their bad manners(they blame low blood sugar), and become ardent library helpers and new friends. OHora’s signature block-color and heavy-lined illustrations are a treat as always, the length is fine, and JJ had plenty of giggles throughout. A treat, and Baby Bookworm approved!

Good Night, Little Monsters (Kara LaReau)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Good Night, Little Monsters, written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Brian Won, a sweet bedtime story with a slightly spooky twist.

Readers are introduced to young monsters going through their bedtime routines – ones that they will recognize as similar to their own, while also being distinctly monsterly. A young “Frankenbaby” has his bolts loosened before he is tucked in, “Loch Nessie” snuggles between her larger parents, an upside-down vampire girl finishes her drink before brushing her fangs. Then, after the monsters have finished their nighttime rituals, the gang gathers in a tent under a moonlit night to enjoy a restful sleep while cuddling with all their pals.

Delightful! Filled with entertaining yet soothing rhyme, and featuring a cast of characters that veers well on the side of lovable rather than truly scary, this is a bedtime book perfect for “little monsters” of the human variety. The text has an excellent rhythm and flow, and JJ was easily able to recognize the similarities in her bedtime routine to the monsters’, which she loved. Won’s illustrations are adorable, using a colorful nocturnal palette to create the cute young monsters and their parents (the zombie family, shown as human in framed photos behind the baby zombie, may raise a few questions for adult readers, but kids aren’t likely to notice). The padded board book is a good length for right before bed, and we liked it a lot. Monstrously fun, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Maximillian Villainous (Margaret Chiu Greanias)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Maximillian Villainous, written by Margaret Chiu Greanias and illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow.

Maximillian is the youngest of the noted Villainous family. His parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. have made the Villainous name proud by doing monstrous misdeeds. But Max just doesn’t seem to have the same streak of trouble in him: he is polite, courteous, even going so far as to provide written apologies and conciliatory gestures to the victims of his family’s pranks. One day, he brings home a most unsuitable sidekick for evildoing – a fluffy bunny named Bert – and it’s the last straw. Max’s mother says that Bert may stay only if the duo can do one of three evil deeds: steal something, make someone cry, or become famous for their deviousness. Unwilling to part with his new friend, Max has to figure out a way to make his family proud… but can he do it without losing his true self?

Absolutely adorable. With some wonderful monster-themed illustrations, kid-pleasingly silly dialogue, and a fantastic plot twist, this was a fabulously enjoyable read. While some of the family’s exclamations were a bit mean – they are Villainous, after all – they do all come around when Max uses his unique talents to meet their demands by outsmarting the rules; they end up respecting Max’s differences, and sometimes that’s the best we can ask. I also loved that the story centers around the argument that it’s okay for boys to be sweet, nurturing, and kind – it’s a lesson that little ones are in desperate need of these days. The illustrations are filled with fun details, such as Max and Bert’s matching fur markings, and fit the tone just right. The length was good, and JJ loved it. A great one for reminding little ones that it’s okay to be different, and wonderful to be kind. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)