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Day 29, book 29: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Isn’t this exciting? Two picture book reviews in one day! The Elf is on fire! It’s easy to get pumped when I’ve made it all the way to Book 29 in my 30 Days, 30 Picture Books Challenge. (I’ve saved quite the book for my big finish tomorrow, so be sure to pop by).

Today’s title soars right off the charts on the cuteness scale. What else would you expect from the mega-talented, Caldecott Honor winner Patrick McDonnell? I imagine this one will be a favourite all year round, but I couldn’t think of a better book to buy for any little one you know this Halloween.

Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom n’ Doom may be little, but they are pretty serious about being Monsters. They huff and puff and get mad about everything. They smash and crash and bash and say NO a lot. So when they come up with a plan to create the baddest monster ever, you’d expect they’d be pretty good at it. As it turns out, their Monster is the worst monster possible. He is really nice. He’s polite. He likes jelly doughnuts and sunsets. He changes their lives, but not in the way they had expected.

It’s really hard to decide what I like the most about this book. The text is full of funny moments: “Big!” little Gloom squealed. “Bad!!” little Doom squeaked. “MONSTER!!!” they all cheered together. You just want to be reading it out loud to make the most of the jokes. The images are packed with sweet humour too, like when Monster goes all over the castle gently patting the bats and rats and spiders and snakes. In between laughs, the kids might think about the power of kindness, unexpected friendship, and what it means to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. The Monsters’ Monster proves that monsters can be awfully adorable, especially the kind who share their jelly doughnuts.

The Monsters’ Monster is published by Little, Brown.

Day 28, book 28 (a little late): The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood

Yesterday was the kind of day that left me so tired that all I could manage by 10:00 pm was slouching over my computer keyboard watching animal videos (exhibit a, exhibit b). Sometimes when this happens I am stuck for a long time in the land of adorable, so I am happy to report that I am back with Picture Book 28, a little late, but so it goes.

The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood is rather lovely. It makes me long for Paris and for the picture books of my youth, the ones that had lots of words so that they lasted long enough to disappear into them for a while. On a side note, I think it’s sad that it seems longer picture books are becoming rarer all the time. First off, I refuse to buy into the argument that parents don’t have the time or inclination in their jam-packed days to read them to their children. But even if you do believe that, what about kids reading them all by themselves? (*gasp*). I did. Some of my best reading memories from childhood are of the afternoons I hung out leaning against the bookcase in our basement, rereading all of my favourite long picture books. Books like this one:

I think that The Tooth Mouse could be this kind of book for many young readers. It’s a sweet fable about the quest of one small mouse to become the successor to the old Tooth Mouse. Sophie, an orphan mouse, lives high up in an ancient cathedral in France. She is full of spirit and she has dancing feet. One day, when the Tooth Mouse announces she is too old to continue her work exchanging coins for children’s baby teeth, Sophie could not be more excited. She is sure she could be the next Tooth Mouse. But it is not so simple as wanting it. The Tooth Mouse has created three tasks that will reveal the best mouse for the job, one who is brave, honest, and wise. It turns out Sophie is all of these things. She trusts her heart and finds her way.

Hood’s story and style is charming, old-fashioned but with enough flair to captivate a modern audience. The French asides scattered throughout add to the atmosphere and will surely add drama to story time. Who doesn’t love quest tales? There’s something supremely satisfying about seeing the cream rise to the top as the best mouse finds a way where others couldn’t. It’s a classic formula, and it’s done beautifully here.

Speaking of beautiful, the softness coupled with the fine lines and detail in Janice Nadeau’s illustrations will inspire readers to slow right down and notice every whimsical moment. The illustrations make me feel like this story should be brought to life in another form as a ballet for children.

A blend of old and new, familiar and quirky, The Tooth Mouse should live happily on children’s bookshelves (and in their laps) for a long, long time.

The Tooth Mouse is published by Kids Can Press.