Archive for ‘Monsters’

September 14, 2018

Maximillian Villainous

I am so excited to tell you about this wonderful book by debut author Margaret Greanias. This is extra special since Margaret has been my critique partner and friend since 2011! I saw this book in its nascent forms and to see it today with sparkling text and colorful pictures– I’m in awe. ❤ Come back next week for an interview with the author!

Title: Maximillian Villainous

Author: Margaret Greanias 
Illustrator: Lesley Breen Withrow (great interview at Kathy Temean’s blog)
Publisher: Running Press Kids, 2018
Editor: Julie Matysik
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Being Yourself


When his father stole Santa’s sleigh, Max gave Santa keys to the family car.

When his grandfather robbed the Tooth Fairy, Max left her an apology and his piggy bank.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance.


Why I Love This Book:

Warm-hearted Max and bunny are sure to win over readers young and old in this tale about staying true to yourself. My favorite parts are seeing the ways Max has subverted his family’s devious deeds in the opening pages and then his own blunders in trying to complete the tasks from his mother’s challenge. The ending is the perfect culmination proving to all he is a Villainous, and the reader will want to cheer Max on since he got what he wanted and he did it his way! The author has also done a magnificent job providing distinct character lines for the three older family members. Read for yourself:

“Oh, evil up already!” said his father.

“Thirteen generations of first-class villainy wiped out by a bunny,  said his grandfather.”

“If that bunny is still here tomorrow, I will launch him into space,” said his mother.

The childlike, colorful illustrations are endearing and joyous and compliment Max and bunny’s personality beautifully. I do like the addition of the baby sister. Could we get a sequel with the two siblings … that would be fun!  😉

The large trim size and bold colors make it perfect for group storytime or reading at home.

Find Maximillian Villainous at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762462973
ISBN-13: 978-0762462971

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

June 18, 2013

The Monstore

The MonstoreTitle: The Monstore
Author: Tara Lazar
Illustrator: James Burks
Publisher: Aladdin Books, 2013
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Monsters, Siblings

Opening Lines:

“At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there’s a trapdoor.

Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside … THE MONSTORE.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website): 

The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her.

But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.

Why I Like this Book:

When you have read as many picture books as I have, after a while they start to seem the same. This book is TRULY original, the only thing this book reminded me is one of my favorite movies Monsters, Inc and that is just because of the colorful, diverse, wacky monsters (not to worry, the stories are completely different). Look at monsters aren’t they amazing!


Debut author Tara Lazar has written a FUN, FUN, FUN read. The only way a kid won’t love this book is if they hate monsters, actually nope maybe not even that. What is this book about? – a trapdoor, monsters for sale, a horrible return policy, and a simple story about a brother and a sister that will make you smile.

I love the characters. They are exceptional from Zack who keeps claiming his monsters are broken, to brave, playful Gracie who loves her new friends, and lastly the manager with poor customer service. I love the humor it is off the charts as the text and illustrations play together perfectly. In this scene below the text starts with “So Zack kept buying .. and trying .. and buying …” which is just heightened with this artwork of a colossal party in Zack’s room. Plus who doesn’t love a monster with underwear on his head.



So grab this book and maybe this “glow in the dark” monster and settle in for a monsterly cooky ride.

For a chance to win a signed copy of this awesome book. Leave a comment by June 25th 9pm PST stating what type of monster you could use. And remember the rules: No monster comment, No entry, No exceptions. 

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Aladdin Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

If you would like to hear from author Tara Lazar, check this interview where she discusses how parents and picture book authors can use Storybird, a digital platform for creating stories.

October 26, 2012

The Monster’s Monster

Title: The Monsters’ Monster

Author & Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell (Interview at Kirkus Reviews)

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Monsters, Behavior

Opening Lines:

“Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom thought they were monsters.
They lived om a dark monster castle, high atop a dark monster mountain, overlooking a monster-fearing village.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Once upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the BIGGEST, BADDEST monsters around. Then along came an even BIGGER monster who changed their minds. And all it took was two little words.

In this playful tale from bestselling picture book author Patrick McDonnell, a very BIG monster shows three very BAD little monsters the power of boundless gratitude.


Downloadable activity sheets – includes a writing/drawing exercise, maze, word search, and more. I love it when authors/illustrators put up activity sheets that match the look and feel of the book.

Why I Like This Book:

An endearing, non-scary story that answers the question “what makes a monster a monster”. Perfect for kids who may see a little bit of themselves in these loveable monsters.

Three teeny monsters, Grouch, Grump, and Gloom ‘n’ Doom love thinking they are bad. They smash, crash and huff ‘n puff about nothing, their favorite word is No!, and they get into fights with themselves. One day they create the biggest, baddest monster ever but things don’t quite turn out the way they had expected. The big monster is happy and caring. The little monsters learn a lesson about being grateful.

The text and illustrations are amazing. The text uses alliteration, repetitive word structure and is most importantly playful. The illustrations are humorous and cartoon like. Notice how the color tone of the book changes from dull to bright as the story progresses, reflective of the mood.  Checkout Great Kid Books review for some sample pages from the book.

A wonderful book to read during Halloween or anytime during the year. Since some of the illustrations are on the smaller side (the teeny monsters) this book is best read in small groups.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

This book was nominated by BookBanditNicole for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Fiction Picture Book category. I am a second-round judge in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

May 11, 2012

My Monster Mama Loves Me So

Less than 48 hours ago I received a request to do storytime at the Mother’s Day party the following day. I began frantically looking for a suitable  book to read to a KG classroom and their moms. Eeeks, too much pressure. Luckily, I have got a great group folks who were quick to recommend books. I would like to publicly thank Hicklebee’s Bookstore, Allen the children’s librarian at the Santa Clara City Library who proactively pulled books on put them on the holdshelf for me, and the 12x12ers (Susanna Hill, Julie Hedlund, Tina Cho, and Julie Rowan-Zach)

Here is the list of Mother’s Day Books recommended:

So many great books to choose, how to choose. I had a  number of criteria, main one being availability at the library that day; I chose Mother’s Day (thank you Allen) and My Monster Mama Love Me So (thank you Tina). Storytime went splendid and quite interactive.  Here more about the kids reactions on the Monster Mama book in the review below. Enjoy!

Title: My Monster Mama Loves Me So

Author: Laura Leuck
Illustrator: Mark Buehner

Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1999
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-8
Themes: Monsters, Rhyming, Family

“My monster mama loves me so!
Let me tell you how I know

When I wake up, she tweaks my nose,
tickles all my pointy toes,

combs the cobwebs from my bangs,
and makes sure that I brush my fangs.”


This sweet, funny story is about the relationship between a monster and his mommy. The monster goes on to list how he knows his monster mama loves him, from brushing fangs, to attending beastball games, and singing monster lullabies. Sure to elicit some monster hugs.


At Home:

  • The best activity for this book is to just sit down with your kid for story time. Start a conversation of all the favorite things the child likes to do with mom.
  • Create a Monster Bean Bag Toss game.


  • List of preschool activities including a monster song, exploration activities, monster puppet craft and much more. These are excerpts from “Preschool Activities” book published by Teacher Created Resources.

Why I Like This Book:

A monsterly good book. Love the silly, rhyming text and the detailed, colorful illustrations showing the monster world. Some monster book illustrations just focus on the monster and maybe a few other nearby objects; this book does it throughout and beautifully. The creaky floor-boards and cobwebs in the house, to a green murky swamp with billowing trees and an amphibious lifeguard, to a park bench at night with an owl perched on a tree with bats flying around.

It was no surprise that half the KG class were sitting on their knees to get a better look. The KGers cried “Ewww” or “Eeek” at their favorite lines: cookies filled with bugs, lizard juice with ice. I liked the ending ‘ and hangs my favorite bat above me’, you’ll have to just get the book to see which type of bat it is.

This book was recommended for Mother’s Day, but would work just as well for Halloween.

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

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