Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Monster Read

The Monstrumologist
by Rick Yancey
Simon & Shuster 2009
Ages 14+

Unlike this masterful work of macabre, I'll keep my review of THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST short and sweet. This 2010 Printz Honor is hands down the best gothic horror novel I've read in years.

THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST details a man's dying account of his boyhood service to a "philosopher" with a maddening obsession for the Anthropophagus (flesh eating monster).

Lucky for us, some really nasty Anthropophagi are on the loose, and Yancey leaves out none of the details.

From the moment the crazed doctor and his young assistant dig a monster's spawn out of an unfortunate victim, Yancey takes readers deep into a maze of horror that gradually reveals some painfully personal secrets.

Yancey seldom relieves readers with a moment of peace, continually ratcheting up the tension with breathless suspense. But there's more to the story than a rip-roaring plot. The main character, an orphan named Will Henry, has a story of his own that's beautifully crafted and well-paced. He is a refreshing surprise. I'll just say that.

I was hooked, and if you like superb writing, you will be too.

Here's the book trailer:

Source: I bought my copy at Orca Books

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monster Chuckles

by Adam Rex
Harcourt Children's Books (Spetember 2006)
Ages 4-8

Monsters make great stories, but do they make a good sandwich? Adam Rex answers these and other pressing questions with a resounding mmmph! mmmph! in FRANKENSTEIN MAKES A SANDWICH, a fun and fabulous collection of illustrated monster rhymes.

From Frankenstein's culinary challenges to the Creature from the Black Lagoon's swimming cramps,  Rex tells it like it isn't. The rhyming narratives flirt with scary legends by poking fun at prominent baddies, like Dracula who's got an embarrassing problem in Count Dracula Doesn't Know He's Been Walking Around with Spinach in His Teeth.

Rex has fun toying with the reality of monsters who have to deal with mundane issues, but he also manages to turn the mundane into the monsterish with The Dentist (a scary topic in its own right) whose described by Frankenjunior as having hooks for fingers and a giant glowing eye for a head.

One of the delights of this collection is a running gag with the Phantom of the Opera's inability to rid his mind of maddening tunes like It's a Small World and B-I-N-G-O—something everyone can relate to. This recurring theme also has the effect of subtlety tying the collection together.

The real star of this wickedly entertaining variety show, however, is Rex's mad gift of illustration. Talk about range--the illustrations run from classic monster film creep show to black and white comic strip and full-color, eye-popping paintings. It's a bit like strolling through an old-time fun house.

There are oodles of monster books, but very few that have oodles of monsters worth their weight in gore. FRANKENSTEIN MAKES A SANDWICH is definitely worthy of a permanent place on the bookshelf.

Source: I bought my copy at Orca Books.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Written by Kevin Bolger
Illustrated by Aaron Blecha
Razorbill (June 2010)
Ages 9-12

When the Widow Imavitch of Dementedyville sells a sinister-looking "stuffy" to Stanley Nudelman, life in his "tidy, uneventful town" suddenly becomes interesting; but interesting in a way that's sometimes barely indistinguishable from the everyday horrors of slope-headed bullies, and sixth graders who speak only in grunts or snarls ("So?" says Stanley's friend Miranda. "They're always like that.")

Kevin Bolger has a gift for making the dreadful totally entertaining, beginning with the nighttime playroom massacre in which Zombiekins comes to life with its menacing limp—Stump!—scritch...Stump!—scritch...Stump!—scritch—tearing the stuffings and limbs off the competition. But is this scary? Nah. It's delicious fun. Stanley blames his poor dog for the "savaged stuffies" and ignorantly takes Zombiekins to school, where things really unravel.

Bolger lightens the mood set by this terrifying teddy by poking fun at the ordinary and mixing it up with the horridnary. After all, can one really tell the difference between a pack of sixth-graders and a zombie horde? No wonder poor Stanley is a little slow to tumble.

He's not the only one to miss the signs. When one of his classmates starts moaning and swiveling her head after one bite from Zombiekins, the teacher Mr. Baldengrumpy doesn't notice a thing. As long as everyone stays in line and follows instructions, he could care less.

Once he catches on, however, Stanley sets out to save his school from ETERNAL ZOMBIEFICATION before something really bad happens and he gets detention.

ZOMBIEKINS is pure entertainment, perfect for reluctant readers and eager readers alike. The illustrations of Aaron Blech bring this deadbeat toy to life with just the right touch of ghoulishness.

Source: I bought my copy of ZOMBIEKINS at Ocra Books.

Want a little taste? Here's a trailer for the book:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Picture Books for Little Chills

Written by Kathyrn O. Galbraith
Illustrated by Jeff Mack
Sandpiper (September 2010)
AGES 4-8

“One shy bunny / One dark night” begins the quietly told tale of a bunny's daring evening of trick-or-treating. Kathryn O. Galbraith delivers just the right touch of shivery anticipation for young readers as one scared bunny joins another, and the two friends face the spooky sights and sounds of Halloween "paws held tight."

The bumps, eeks, squeaks, booos and whoooos resolve into a satisfying ending that makes the journey all the more worthwhile.

BOO, BUNNY! is told in rhythmical slant rhymes and long vowel sounds that create an engaging read-aloud. Great for small groups and one-on-one reading.

This one is a keeper.

Written by Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Roaring Brook Press (August 2009)
Ages 4-8

WHEN A MONSTER IS BORN is the twisted creation of Sean Taylor who lays out the many possibilities that unfold when a monster is born, starting with:
"either it's a faraway-in-the-forests monster, or…it's an under-your-bed monster." 
Each set of choices has one option that ends the story ("If it eats you, that's that") and one option that leads to two more possibilities. After a series of fabulous twists and turns, the story returns to the birth of a new monster...and the story begins again.

The publisher says it's for ages 4-8, but I don't think it stops there.

This is a great book for a dramatic reading and interactive storytime.