Thursday, October 31, 2019

Review - The Spooky Sleepover

The Spooky Sleepover (Monster School)
by Dave Keane
Date: 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Norm is just plain normal until he finds himself in a new school where all his classmates are monsters! When his school hosts a sleepover, Norm is nervous that he'll be too scared to fall asleep. But it's not the monsters that he's scared of--it's sleeping away from home!

Join Norm in this wacky, easy-to-read I Can Read story about learning to fit in. Reluctant readers, boy readers, girl readers, monster readers--any beginning readers--will enjoy the wonderfully silly story and the fun illustrations.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I gather that the premise of these books is that Norm is a "normal" boy in a school populated by various monsters. In this book, his class has won a sleepover in the school library. Each of the characters is developed a little by showing how they get ready for bed. Norm is scared. Eventually, his classmates help him feel better so that he can fall asleep.

This would be an okay book but for a couple of things. First, one of his classmates appears to be a set of dicephalic parapagus twins. Unfortunately, she's depicted simply as a singular monster with two heads. (I wish the book had stuck with obviously fictional creatures like zombies and vampires.) Second, Norm is pretty judgmental. Actually, so is the book. It states that Norm is "normal", when he's clearly not; normality is relative, and at his school, he's clearly the freak. But that's not all. One of Norm's classmates, Gill, snores through his gills. Norm states, "That is just gross." Then, his reaction to one of his other classmates clipping his claws is, "That is a little rude." He's also muttering under his breath throughout the book things like, "Of course it is a spooky story," and "It is a scary movie, of course," which seem like passive-aggressive putdowns of the things his classmates like. By the time they all get into their sleeping bags, Norm can't sleep because he's a whiny little baby (he wants his night-light, his cat, and his mommy humming him a song). His classmates--and teacher--step in to provide him with what he needs, even though he's done little throughout the book to try to accept or learn from his classmates' own traditions and preferences. The book ends with Norm thinking about how scary things can be made a bit less scary by having good friends around... and so he kind of comes across as a spoiled little twit.

The illustrations don't really excite me. They're too simple and cartoonish. Kids might get a kick out of some of the wacky characters, though.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this one. There was a good opportunity for a discussion about overcoming your fears and trying new things, but it was ignored in favour of letting the whiny protagonist stay in his comfort zone and not learn a thing. (Imagine changing the setting to an international school where one student complains about the others' food, mocks their appearances, sneers at their rituals, and then gets rewarded by having everyone cater to his preferences. Somehow, I don't think that would go over very well.)

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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