Tuesday, October 23

13 Days of Halloween: The Monster's Monster

by Patrick McDonnell 
Little, Brown 2012 

Three little monsters decide to create a much bigger monster who, it turns out, teaches them that you don't HAVE to be a monster, just because you're a monster.  

Horned Grouch, hairy Grump, and two-headed Doom 'n' Gloom live in a castle atop a hill where their antics cause the villagers no end of fear. They smash and bash things, get upset over nothing, and their ten favorite words are all 'no.' One day they set out to Frankenstein themselves an ultimate monster but things don't go as plan when Monster turns out to be full of politeness and child-like wonder. Oh, the horror! as Monster teaches them to say Thank You (actually "Dank You" sounding like the late Alex Karras playing Mongo in a Mel Brooks movie), brings them powdered donuts to share, and takes them to the beach to watch the sunrise. Turns out all the little monsters needed was a good role model. 

There's something disarmingly cute about this. While thin on character development and motive there seems to be at the core a message about an accepted loss of civility. Or maybe a larger idea about transcending who we think by being shown what we can become. Or maybe it's just a twist on the Frankenstein narrative that suggests our collective "creations" can be larger and better than individual selves.

Or sometimes, a story about monsters is just a story about monsters.

McDonnell's art is breezy and cute in his typical style, though lacking the finer subtleties found in Me, Jane where character expressions on a stuffed animal did as much storytelling as the text. Here, the illustrations are all surface, leaving no real memorable images in their wake as the pages turn. That, coupled with the slight text, makes The Monster's Monster read like a light between-meal snack; more of a rice cracker than a cookie, and essentially calorie-free.

Still, for little monsters who might want a Halloween treat that isn't too scary, this would suffice.
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