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Kids Picture Book Review – Fractured Fairy Tales Roundup






the most terrible of all coverTHE MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL
Written by Muon Thị Văn
Illustrated by Matt Myers
(Margaret K. McElderry Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

If you like fairy tales, Muon Thị Văn’s new spin on Snow White will enchant you. Snow White and the dwarfs aren’t featured, rather the focus is on the Magic Mirror used by the Evil Queen. In The Most Terrible of All, the queen has been replaced by Smugg, a lovable monster. Smugg is certain he’s the most terrible beast in the land—his mirror tells him so. Until, one day, when he’s out-terribled by someone new, someone “a million times more terrible.” Not one to sit idly by, Smugg goes in search of this interloper. His quest takes him all the way . . . next door where a houseful of fiends contends for the title of Most Terrible.

This ghoulish fractured fairy tale delighted me. Matt Myers’s art features lovely blues, greens, purples, and pinks giving the book a calm vibe even though the action’s quite exciting. His “ginormous sea serpent” is wonderfully scary and my favorite creature in the book.

Kids will enjoy this picture book because it’s a funny version of a story they already know. The monsters are charming and the ending is just perfect.

Written by Lynne Marie

Illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo
(Sterling Children’s Books; $16.95, Ages 4-8)

Goldilocks has gone ghoulish in Lynne Marie’s picture book, Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale. The Scare family—a monster dad, mummy mom, and vampire daughter—are enjoying a lovely night together preparing a midnight snack of sliced finger sandwiches and Alpha-Bat soup. But, of course, the soup is too hot; it boils Dad’s bolts, causes Mama to unravel, and gives Baby a fang-ache.

David Rodriguez Lorenzo illustrations are deathly cute. Details enliven each scenes. The page that enchants me is Moldilocks zombie-stumbling across the dining table with a fly escort. The three chairs are perfectly suited for each family member. Their décor is skeletal chic. A skull vase displays withering flowers, an old-fashioned TV’s rabbit ears appear to be femurs, and the standing lamp is a headless skeleton holding up its lampshade.

Pay attention to the opening pages because those lines will come back to haunt you with the book’s modern ending. When the Scares catch Moldilocks in their ghastly abode, Mama muses that her “nightmares have been answered”; I think Moldilocks would agree.

Reading Beauty cover

Written by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Meg Hunt
(Chronicle Books; $17.99, Ages 6-8)

The winning team of Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt from Interstellar Cinderella are together again in Reading Beauty, another rhyming fractured fairy tale picture book. In this version, instead of the princess pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, Princess Lex lives in a book-loving kingdom and is cursed to go into a deathlike sleep from a paper cut. Therefore, all books are secreted away on her fifteenth birthday.

“Without its books, their world grew bleak, consumed by dark and gloom.” Luckily Lex’s cute puppy, Prince, has been trained to fetch her things to read. I like how this smart princess takes matters into her own hands, especially the funny scene where Lex fools the fairy.

The art pops from the page. A bright blend of classic fairy tale and futuristic wonder will delightfully transport readers into a modern world. You’ll have to pick up your own copy to discover the creative ending.


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The Remember Balloons & Maximillian Villainous – Two Heart-filled Books

Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias

Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
(Running Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)


Written by Jessie Oliveros

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
(Simon and Schuster; $17.99, Ages 5-9)


are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

cover art from Maximillian Villainous The monster members of Max’s family cannot understand why he is SO good and not at all villainous, as they are. MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS is kind, helpful and constantly scrambling to make amends for his family’s mischievous misdeeds. When Max brings home a bunny, his family decides to offer him the ultimate test. He must complete three devious, villainous tasks in order to keep his sweet, fluffy and otherwise unsuitable pet.

Max and bunny do try to tackle their tricky To Do list, but they are too nice! They fail repeatedly and humorously, although they persist in finding creative solutions. Eventually Max begins to despair that he can succeed in behaving badly. Will he be forced to give up his beloved rabbit? With comic antics and heart-tugging earnestness, eager readers will be delighted to discover whether Max and his bunny can uncover a solution that saves the day.

Withrow’s adorable illustrations are colorful, bright and filled with expression. Max and his family are clearly monsters, adorned with horns, fangs and claws, but they are also incredibly child-friendly, cute and appealing. Clever, whimsical elements are tucked onto every page for young readers to discover. Greanias’ playful dialogue and crisp pacing enhance the odds that MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS will become a read-it-again, monstrous favorite in many homes.

cover art from The Remember BalloonsIn THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, debut author Oliveros features a three-generation family coping with an elderly grandfather’s memory loss. Using colored balloons to represent treasured memories, each family member carries bunches ranging from small to large. “This one’s my favorite,” says the young boy narrator as he points to a blue balloon. It’s filled with special scenes from his birthday party. “When I look at it I can see the pony again. I can still taste the chocolate frosting.”

But Grandpa’s balloons are beginning to slip away, one by one, as his memories start to fade. The narrator struggles with sadness and anger as he witnesses his grandfather’s decline, metaphorically paired with the shrinking number of balloons. His helplessness is palpable, as is his deep love for his grandfather. When even a most precious memory of a special fishing trip is lost, the boy’s parents step in to offer consolation. Although it is bittersweet when the boy discovers that the number of his balloons continues to grow, the tale arrives at a comforting and heartwarming conclusion that will satisfy all.

Wulfekotte’s adept illustrations place detailed vignettes of special memories within a broad spectrum of delicately tinted balloons. The family, in soft, black and white lines and gray shading, is often nestled in close, companionable connection. Settings are simple and understated, allowing the significance of the balloons to hold the focus. Oliveros uses clear, direct language to relay this poignant story in a manner that keeps it accessible for a wide range of readers. THE REMEMBER BALLOONS beautifully expresses the enduring love and importance of family memories in a gracious and meaningful book. Kirkus, starred review

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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How To Catch A Monster by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton


Written by Adam Wallace
Illustrated by Andy Elkerton
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; $10.99, Ages 4-8)

Plus a Rafflecopter Giveaway 

cover image from How to Catch a Monster

A USA Today Bestseller!

From the creators of the New York Times bestselling How to Catch a Leprechaun and How to Catch an Elf!

There’s a monster in my closet,

with claws, and teeth, and hair,

and tonight, I’m going to scare him!

He lives just right through there …

Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that’s been so scary night after night! But what if things aren’t what they seem and our monster isn’t scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of the strangest sort?


Int artwork from How to Catch a Monster
Interior spread from How to Catch a Monster written by Adam Wallace with illustrations by Andy Elkerton, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky ©2017.




Int spread from How to Catch a Monster
Interior spread from How to Catch a Monster written by Adam Wallace with illustrations by Andy Elkerton, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky ©2017.


Adam Wallace is a children’s writer and cartoonist living in Australia. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling How to Catch series and Only You Can Save Christmas.

Andy Elkerton is a children’s book illustrator based in the United Kingdom.


Int image from How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton
Interior spread from How to Catch a Monster written by Adam Wallace with illustrations by Andy Elkerton, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky ©2017.



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Worst in Show by William Bee

Worst in Show
Written by William Bee
Illustrated by Kate Hindley
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, ages 3-7)


Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

Worst-in-Show-cvr.jpgIn our anything goes reality show culture, we see time and again contestants competing in ridiculous events, each more outrageous than the next. So it makes sense every so often to stop and ask: what prize are they trying to win anyway? Light-hearted and humorous, Worst in Show highlights this question through soft language and muted colors, gently challenging readers of all ages to rethink the very standards we’ve come to accept as “successful.”

Little Albert, proud owner of a pet monster named Sidney sets off to prove to the world his monster is the “best pet monster in the world.” Entering Sidney in a live televised show, “THE BEST PET MONSTER IN THE WORLD COMPETITION,” Albert realizes Sidney has some pretty stiff competition.

For starters in Round 1 of the competition, “Hairiest Warts,” we see the other monsters proudly displaying their large, bumpy double-decker warts. Particularly enviable is the monster who shows off his armpit collection. “But Sidney, who has a bath every other day with lots of soap and bubbles, hasn’t got any warts–just a few freckles.” Albert’s confidence, by page 11, has withered into a worrisome expression, adorably accented by his gigantic eyeglasses.

As the rounds continue, Sidney’s chances of winning seem farther and farther away and Albert’s expression appear all the more anxious. By Round 3, “Most Parasites,” Sidney’s superior hygiene, once again, proves to be a disadvantage. While the other monsters’ parasites crowd the stage, Sidney’s meager two decide to pack their vacation things up and leave, as they were “just staying for a few days.” It’s a good thing too because on the next round, “Smelliest Fart” (my personal favorite), the stage is polluted with the other monsters’ simultaneous “smelly,” “stinky,” “stenchy,” and “rotten” fart fumes. Using the “Fart Buster 2000,” only a professional in a hazmat suit, like a company rep from Servpro, can vacuum up the smelly mess–like it never even happened. Oh, but happen it does. By the last round, “Hottest Breath,” the other monsters’ fiery flames nearly burn down the television studio.
Interior artwork from Worst in Show by William Bee with illustrations by Kate Hindley, Candlewick Press, ©2015.

Throughout the competition, Sidney’s smile never wavers, and Albert’s common sense finally overrides his embarrassment and despair. He asks himself at the end of each round, “who wants a” gross, filthy, fire-breathing, trouble-making pet monster anyway? As we open the folds of the penultimate page, a beautiful four page spread, we see Sidney receiving a trophy for performing the “WORST IN SHOW.” Albert knows good-smelling, clean, and gentle Sidney is the real winner here, as is this picture book for valuing the importance of individuality.

– Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

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Even Monsters … by A.J. Smith Virtual Tour & Giveaway

Welcome to the EVEN MONSTERS Virtual Tour & Giveaway courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

Even Monsters … written and illustrated by A.J. Smith, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014.

Be sure to scroll down to devour every last morsel of our exciting EVEN MONSTERS by A.J. Smith art contest, giveaway, interview & EVEN more!!

MONSTER ART CONTEST: Even the bravest little monsters can be scared of what’s lurking in a closet or under the bed. Author and illustrator A.J. Smith’s family-friendly picture book, Even Monsters (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99, Ages 4-8 ) written and illustrated by A.J. Smith, is perfect for helping children understand that sometimes the things we are afraid of are not scary at all. In fact, they can be quite funny – see Fur of The Loom undies above!! To help kids overcome their fear of the dark and see how silly monsters can be, A.J. invites them to participate in the Monster Art Contest. Children ages 2-9 can send in their best monsters drawings for the chance to have their art animated into their own music video! The best 100 drawings will appear in a special Even Monsters art gallery, and the top 20 drawings will be animated into their own music video. WOW!



Hi AJ! EVEN MONSTERS is ADORABLE and something both my kids would have loved when they were younger.  There’s something to discover on every page meaning kids will want to go back again and again to see if they can find something new. Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 5.43.03 PMGRWR: With that last sentence in mind, did you deliberately include those tiny cute orangey-red, big-eyed creatures for kids to seek out on every page (and perhaps count)?

A.J. SMITH: Certainly I want the story to be fun and engaging in its own right, but yes, the little cooties were added as a way to extend the life of the story by inviting kids to come back for multiple reads and explore the book for cooties. Taking it even a step further, kids can print and play this cootie-counter game:

GRWR: I noticed a lot of broken items scattered throughout the book and thought you got into the young monsters’ heads quite well. Were you a monster when you were growing up?

A.J. SMITH: Kids (and monsters) can sometimes be destructive even when intentions are at their best. That said, I was an exceptionally gentle and thoughtful child who never did anything wrong. It’s possible my parents may have their own perspective on the matter, however.

GRWR: What prompted you to take this picture book one step further by introducing the digital element where kids (with help from their parents) can scan the QR codes throughout the book for assorted fun activities?

A.J. SMITH: I like the idea that a children’s book is a toy. Yes, it’s hopefully an eventual gateway to bigger literary endeavors. But in the meantime, a picture book should encourage interactivity and play. QR codes were just one more way for me to help facilitate that, which then brings you to more content online that revolves around Even Monsters. Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 5.52.51 PM GRWRAside from the fact that you’re obviously very talented, what else would you say influenced you to first enter the world of animation and designing?

A.J. SMITH: Thanks for the kind words. I’ve always liked to draw from a young age … Always enjoyed cartoons and books. I could talk all day about specific influences from pop culture to everyday events in childhood. But mostly I just always wanted to create stories and make people laugh. Animation, design, illustration, and writing became the best ways (for me) to make that happen.

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Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters by Jane Yolen

Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters (Candlewick Press, $14.99, Ages 3-7) by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Kelly Murphy is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Candlewick Press.

I love all the wild and wacky ways illustrators design monsters in children’s books and the monsters in Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters are just that – wild and wacky! That’s one of the reasons why this picture book works so wonderfully. The other reason is that the combination of Yolen’s rhymes (short, sweet and silly) with Murphy’s humorous artwork had me lingering on every page.

This sequel to Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters is packed with every type of monster imaginable, but none to scary to put off a youngster at bedtime. Hanging out in a park (aka Creepy Commons), the assorted monsters in Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Some have scales, others have tentacles. Readers will spot winged, one-eyed, three-eyed, and bulging-eyed monsters. Some monsters are pink, others are purple. I liked the two-legged monsters, but there are also some with four. There’s even a monster with extremely long, stretchy arms, perfect for playing jump rope!

In Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters, a monster mom (clutching her shoulder bag) takes her two monster kids to play in the park where they’re greet by a bevy of monster buddies. Kids will want to closely inspect every page because there are lots of giggle-worthy antics going on. Yolen’s read-aloud rhymes are fun and offbeat, in other words, ideal for your very own little monster:

Monsters in three-legged races

Fall upon

Their monster faces.

What a perfect park Murphy’s envisioned with a lake, fountains, statues, pavilions, and plenty of wide open space for monsters to run around in to their monster hearts’ content. And for a frozen treat when monsters are hot and teeter-tottered out, there’s a monster-sicle vendor. Yolen’s also added a touch of monster mischief around a water fountain, when the bigger sibling of this story goes a bit overboard. But the monster mom insists sibling monsters make up in the end. Does everyone go home from Creepy Commons happy? What do you think?

Interior spread from Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, © 2013 Candlewick Press.





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