CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018
Herman is a little green monster who works with his best (human) friend Sarah at a local café. He is known for making his signature drink—The Double Trouble, Chocolate Bubble, Vanilla Truffle Mochaccino with sprinkles. But strange, scary noises are keeping Herman up at night, and the less sleep he gets, the more his famous latte starts to lose its special touch. When one of his monster friends suggests Herman might be hearing the song of a terrifying Attic Monster, she and Herman decide to investigate—if they can muster up the courage!
A New Song for Herman, written by Paul McAllister and illustrated by Emily Brown, is the second story in the “Herman the Monster” book series. Herman has settled into a happy life working at a café and making a signature drink all of his own. When mysterious noises keep him awake and affect his barista abilities, however, Herman's friend Carpet agrees to help him look for the Attic Monster she believes is hiding out in his house. After an initial attempt to explore the attic results in Carpet’s losing her favourite hat, Herman puts aside his fears and prepares to confront the scary monster once and for all. He approaches the source of the spooky noises and, to his great surprise, finds a small, friendly Attic Monster singing a happy tune and baking delicious cookies.
Readers not acquainted with the first Herman tale, There and Back Again, A Herman Tale, may find A New Song for Herman a little confusing at first glance. The book's cover and title page do not indicate this story is part of a series, but the tale, itself, somewhat relies on readers having read the first Herman book. For example, there is mention of Street Monsters, but no explanation of what these creatures are (or of how they differ from Herman, a House Monster) is provided. Readers may also find it odd that House Monsters and Street Monsters co-exist while Attic Monsters are scary to other monster types. These aspects do not make the story inaccessible to a wider audience, but they do suggest that readers should seek out the first book in the series if they want a complete understanding of Herman's world.
A New Song for Herman tells a familiar tale in which the frightened main character must face ominous noises and dark shadows only to discover his fears are not well-founded. The story is, in that sense, predictable, and it is also a bit repetitive. Herman works up the nerve to explore the attic, sees scary shadows that turn out to be only piles of junk, and runs back downstairs after being frightened by the monster's song. He then immediately finds a new source of courage, returns to the attic a second time, sees a new scary shadow, and shines a light to reveal it to be only another pile of junk. However, even with this repetition, readers will enjoy guessing what is waiting for Herman in the attic, and the introduction of a new, friendly monster brings the story to a cute and satisfying end.
Emily Brown's illustrations are definitely the highlight of A New Song for Herman. Herman is an adorable monster, and the style and colouring of Herman (as well as his monster friends) showcase the characters' unique personalities. The use of light in certain scenes, such as when Herman and Carpet hear the Attic Monster's song for the first time and scream in fright (illuminating themselves in the beam of Herman's flashlight in the process), are particularly evocative, as are some of the background details, such as the early morning sky when Carpet is standing by the café's main doors.
While readers may wish to read the first Herman tale before starting this second adventure, A New Song for Herman offers an enjoyable story for existing Herman fans and for those intrigued by the premise of a sweet monster confronting the things that go bump in the night.
Meredith Cleversey, a librarian in Cambridge, ON, loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.