Love Monster

Huge thanks to all at Booktrust – this was a freebie we won through a Valentine’s Day competition on Twitter.

It’s a brand new, hot off the presses, 2012 picture book, and very stylish it is too.

Monster is a googly-eyed hairy creature living in a world of cute fluffy things.  Surrounded by bunnies, kittens and puppies  he naturally feels a little bit of an outsider.  In a practical and proactive manner he decides to go out and look for love.

He looks everywhere, high, low, middle-ish, in, out – but to no avail.  Briefly fooled by a fancy-dress costume, his shadow and even his own reflection, he eventually loses his ‘umpf’ (should this be ‘oomph’?!) and starts to feel very down.  But sometimes things happen when you least expect it…

Linguistically this book has an unusual chatty style which is appealing.  Monster is “I-suppose-a-bit-googly-eyed” and “lives in a world of cute, fluffy things, which makes being funny-looking pretty darn hard.”  All this makes it very easy and charming to read, and no doubt highly entertaining for little ones who will enjoy the sense that the book is ‘speaking’ to them.  There is a lot of detail in the bold and quirky illustrations, too, including some excellent  jokes in the writing on lists and books that will keep adults interested and give emerging readers something to come back to.  Poor Monster is a sympathetic character who will charm anyone and perhaps the only issue with the premise of the book is that he is incredibly cute just as he is!

It is a difficult book to place in terms of age because it does turn quite sinister in the middle.  When Monster is unable to find love “it began to get dark.  And scary.  And well, not very nice.”  The page is entirely black apart from Monster’s huge, unhappy eyes and some miserable-looking teeth.  This is probably as close as a picture book gets to representing depression.  Clearly (and sadly) a reality for some young children and also for some of the adults they live with, this is an issue that perhaps demands to be dealt with.  It is done simply and metaphorically (Monster has his own little raincloud in the manner of vintage cartoons) and certainly opens up an opportunity for talk about sad feelings and how sometimes things can seem bad when in fact happiness is just around the corner.  On the other hand it makes Love Monster, for a few pages at least, very serious indeed in a way that some parents may find unsettling and some children unnerving.  Parents should use their own discretion as to whether their children can cope with it.

Overall this is an engaging and meaningful story with a traditional happy ending and bold, expressive drawings.  It certainly establishes Rachel Bright (this is her fourth book) as someone to watch out for.

One to share and discuss with pre-schoolers and older.

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