Angela McAllister's Yuck! That's Not a Monster!
illustrated by Alison Edgson
Book review by Susan Syddall
Monsters are meant to be hairy and scary! They're not cute and adorable! This story is all wrong ... or is it?
The creators of "Yuck! That's Not A Monster!" have played with words and concepts in a way that creates a truly captivating and funny children's picture book that is a keeper.
We've read this book so many times and my boys still laugh when we get to certain sections. Re-readability (if there's such a term) is definitely the mark of a great children's book!
The characters are drawn in bright colours in such a way that they look friendly ... even cuddly, despite the fact they're covered in spikes and warts.
The illustrator has created a perfect balance between monster scariness and friendless so young children are attracted to these story book characters. In fact, these characters are more funny than fierce.
The other aspect that works so well in this book is the way the author has played with the meaning of words. For us, 'ugly', 'horrid', 'frightful' are not desirable attributes to be found in a baby ... but they are if you're a monster.
The story starts with Mr and Mrs Monster who are eagerly awaiting the hatching of their three monster babies from three monster eggs.
By the way, in case you're wondering how monsters care for eggs, they keep them warm by breathing on them with hot, stinky breath and screeching at them.
As the first two babies hatch, Mr and Mrs Monster are delighted by the prickly spikes, snarly fangs and bristly warts.
However, when the third baby hatches, the family members don't exactly know what to do with him as he's a fluffy, pink ball of cuteness. They've never had anything like this happen before.
Brother and sister live up to their names, Frightful and Horrid, and immediately come up with a solution ... "Let's squash him!"
Mr Monster looks absolutely perplexed? How could they have produced such a revoltingly cute creature? What are they going to do about it? He's solution? Throw the cuteness in the rubbish bin!
Even Mrs Monster confesses that the new family member is a bit of a shock ... which how the third monster child gets his name, "Little Shock".
When a clamp of thunder scares the small, pink, fluffy monster, he jumps into his mother's arms. Mrs Monster immediately decides he may look different on the outside but inside he's a monster just like us.
Living in a monster world, it seems that Little Shock is a misfit. He's the total opposite to his brother. They grow hairier and scarier and learn monstering ways quickly. Meanwhile, Little Shock grows fluffier.
When instructed to take their pink brother along on a monstering adventure, Frightful and Horrid hide Little Shock in a trolley under a blanket.
However, when Frightful and Horrid find themselves in huge trouble because they've roared at an enormous monster by mistake, it's actually Little Shock who innocently comes to the rescue by ...
... wait! How can I tell you how she rescues her siblings without ruining the story for you by telling you the ending? Let's just say, the method she uses in entirely in character ... absolutely cute and adorable!
The enormous monster runs off crying for his mummy ... a fact that sent our young readers into gales of laughter.
The end result? Horrid and Frightful suddenly see their brother, Little Shock, is a hero, despite the fact that he's still pink, fluffy and cute!
"Yuck! That's Not A Monster" challenges the concept of colour assignment according to gender and stereotyping. After all, isn't pink a colour for girls and the pink fluffy monster is definitely a boy?
In our house, full of boys, this led to a lively discussion about colours and genders - a perfect opportunity to question why is pink assigned to girls. Hmmm ... made me question why there is no 'pink' in our house!
Not a Monster is a terrific book to use with young children who are learning about language. There are plenty of descriptive words to discover in this story.
The large, clear pictures are ideal for reading to a group of children, or to individuals.
"Yuck! It's Not a Monster!" would also be a wonderful story for children to dramatise.
Finally, the story subtly reinforces to children that we are all unique individuals with varying characters and skills.
Yuck! That's Not a Monster!, by Angela McAllister and Alison Edgson, is truly endearing. We're so pleased we've discovered it. Now we're off in search of another book by the same author, Brave Bitsy and the Bear. If it's as good as the book we've just read, we're in for a treat!
Read more of Susan's reviews.
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