Friday, September 6, 2019

Review - My Monster Friends and Me

My Monster Friends and Me
by Annie Sarac
illustrated by Alice Brereton
Date: 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

CAUTION: Monsters not as scary as they appear!

We all know about the monsters that lurk under the bed and in the closet, but there are many other fears that children face every day. Blending bedtime chills and humor, this clever monster story shows how the power of imagination can help conquer fears, whether it is that terrifying creature under the bed, loud noises, spooky shadows, or the unknown in the dark.

When I was young, I had many fears,
Like darkness or storms in the sky.
But then I learned when you meet your monsters,
You can make them friends if you try!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While I appreciate what this book is trying to do, I don't think it's going to work for every child. I doubt it would have worked for me; in fact, it probably would've made things worse.

The basic premise is that each thing that scares the narrator--whether it's the neighbour's dog, thunder and lightning, or shadows--is turned into a monster and then vanquished by giving it an innocuous name and imagining it as friendly. This might work for some kids, but I have a feeling that I would've just ended up with more problems. It wouldn't have occurred to me to imagine my fears as tangible monsters in the first place, but if I had, I might've gotten stuck on that point... and then had a fear of monsters to deal with on top of everything else. (I had--still have, really--a worrier's imagination. If I'd tried to turn some of my fears into monsters, I likely would have scared myself!)

If getting rid of fears were really that easy, a book like this would be all that it takes. I have my doubts, however, whether really entrenched phobias would benefit from this sort of thing. I mean, you can tell a child to call that massive spider in the corner Bill, but it's still a spider and naming doesn't change its potential for harm or its creepiness. In fact, some of the monsters in this book are things kids should be wary about in certain situations. There's a big difference between a lightning storm and the imaginary monster under the bed; one can actually kill you, after all.

The illustrations don't really excite me. The monsters are creative, but the style of drawing is kind of blocky and impressionistic. It works for the monsters in that it makes them really creepy... but in a book about dispelling fears, I'm not sure if that's the best thing.

Overall, this was a bit of a disappointment. The basic premise is okay as long as it's dealing with some of the weird, harmless fears children have (like shadows and monsters under the bed). But I'm not really a fan of books that teach children to take things like aggressive dogs and thunderstorms lightly. There are some fears that are completely reasonable, and they're there to keep us safe.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Wonderland for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.14 out of 5

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