CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 40. . . .June 13, 2014
Marcel is committed to his work as a monster. Every single night he hides under beds and in closets, hoping to scare a child as required in his job description. However, even though he meets all the criteria to be a monster, and he has the skills down pat, he just isn’t scary. Much to his chagrin, the children he meets find him loveable. The only thing that helps him wind down after a disappointing night of failing to frighten is getting into his kitchen to cook. Using disgusting ingredients only fit for a monster, Marcel bakes and boils dishes for the next night’s shift. In a turn of fate, he accidentally leaves his lunch pail on the counter in a child’s house one night, and he stumbles upon a way that he can scare girls and boys all over town.
Children will appreciate the absurdity in Monster Chef as Marcel tries and fails and tries again to frighten the boys and girls on his block. While the subject matter doesn’t feel particularly novel, the approach is entertaining. Bland once again shows his artistic versatility, choosing a medium that fluently sets the tone with full-page drawings. The blended, soft look of the illustrations—created using a mix of watercolour, gouache, pencil, and pastel—creates a sense of darkness and gloom without being scary. The text builds the humorous story, and the pictures act as the punch line. On the surface, this is just an entertaining romp, but there are lessons to be learned from the hapless monster. Marcel never gives up on his goal of being scary, and he finds a new way to reach it. He is most successful because he finds a way to use his own strengths to meet the objective. It’s a classic lesson presented in a new way.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Toronto, ON, with a passion for children’s literature and writing.
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