Book: Bedtime Monsters
Author: Josh Schneider
Age Range: 4-8
Bedtime Monsters is a new picture book by Josh Schneider, who won a 2012 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for Tales for Very Picky Eaters. Bedtime Monsters is a fun story about using your imagination to conquer nighttime fears.
By day, Arnold pretends to be a New York-destroying, animal-eating monster. But when bedtime comes around, he worries about "the monster that comes out at night and bits off toes." His pragmatic mother says: "I'm sure he's just as scared of you as you are of him." Arnold is then visited by a series of monsters, each of whom is afraid of the next, right up until his mother's supposition proves to be indirectly true.
Bedtime Monsters is written with short, declarative sentences that lend themselves to a suspenseful tone. Schneider uses carefully selected vocabulary words to make the sounds of the night come alive. Like this:
"Arnold and the terrible toe biter looked into the dark.
Arnold looked to the left.
The terrible toe biter looked to the right.
The bed made a squeaking noise.
The radiator made a glinking noise.
The closet door made a creaking noise."
There is plenty of dialog, which I think also helps to make it a fun read-aloud (parents can do monster voices). The monsters have creative names like "winged fargles."
Schneider's watercolor, pen-and-ink, and colored pencil illustrations show Arnold's early pretendings via sketched outlines of the pretended elements surrounding the real elements (e.g. Arnold, with the outline of a monster around him). The monsters who visit Arnold, however, are shown as fully colored, three-dimensional creatures, supporting the conceit that the visits from the monsters are real. This works well, because it makes Bedtime Monsters into a straight-up story, and leaves any message about conquering one's fears in the background where it belongs. There's a humorous bit at the end where we see the last monster pretending to be Arnold.
Striped PJ-clad Arnold shows a range of emotions, ranging from afraid to annoyed to proud, via both facial expression and posture. His nighttime room is shown with a twilight purple background, against which the monsters stand out clearly.
I see Bedtime Monsters being popular with kids who are afraid of the dark, as well as with kids who like playing monster (are there any who don't?). As an adult reader, I like the subtlety of the message, and the way "he's more afraid of you than you are of him" plays out slowly over the course of the book. I also like the matter-of-fact authority of the mother (if only it were really that easy), and the general sense of fun of the text. Recommended for home and library purchase.
Publisher: Clarion Books (@hmhkids)
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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