CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2016
Super-Duper Monster Viewer is an interactive gem of a picturebook created by acclaimed Canadian author and illustrative mastermind Kevin Sylvester whose past publications, including the much beloved “Neil Flambé” series, have earned him multiple Silver Birch awards for children’s fiction. Super-Duper Monster Viewer is a unique contribution from Sylvester which differs quite significantly in format from his more conventional mystery-style works or his sports-oriented pieces. Fans of Sylvester’s work are in for a treat as this picturebook introduces readers to a whole new side of his humorous and imaginative talents.
In homage to modern technology, Sylvester ingeniously creates the Super-Duper Monster Viewer, a tablet-like device in book format that comes complete with imaginary camera functions that enable its viewers to observe monster behaviours up close. The book opens with a series of rules for how to properly operate the viewer, and readers are strongly cautioned about the potential dangerous reactions of the monsters should they be made upset at any point.
Once the Super-Duper Monster Viewer has been “powered on”, readers are presented with a series of quirky illustrations of two fuzzy and vibrantly colourful monsters, one green and one purple. These monsters entertainingly converse with the reader via simple text in speech bubbles which provide directives on how to operate the viewer by zooming in and out and moving it in different directions to capture optimal angles. Children are treated to a hilarious adventure as the monsters are subjected to the consequences of the viewer as they fall in and out of observable range and are exposed to extreme close-ups and an abundance of flash. The closing sequence of illustrations finds the monsters enraged by the actions of the reader, and, after a failed attempt to charge straight through the viewer’s screen (which results in nothing but shattered glass), the green monster promptly exits, leaving only his purple sidekick behind who unsuccessfully tries to engage the reader in yet another round of viewing escapades. The final pages suggest that the reader is through with the exploration, and the powering down process of the now damaged viewer begins.
Sylvester’s choice of illustrative layout is very clever as each page accurately resembles the shape and size of an actual tablet. Children will unquestionably enjoy following the comical directives of the monsters as they zoom, shake, and flash their way into adventure. It is important to note that children’s interpretation of the opening page prior to the commencement of the main story would most likely require the assistance of an adult, particularly the sections which necessitate an understanding of the function of asterisks in directing attention to supplementary information. Since this content is presented next to the opening credits and publisher information and does not resemble the illustrations that follow, it is possible that younger children may unintentionally skip over it, therefore missing out on information that is fundamental in fully appreciating the humorous nature of the story.
Children will most certainly enjoy how Super-Duper Monster Viewer places them at the center of the action. For today’s generation of digital learners, this picturebook comes as a much welcomed surprise as it unites traditional picturebook format with familiar concepts of modern technology. Sylvester’s Super-Duper Monster Viewer is monsterifically magnificent - a must have for any home or school collection.
Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON., where she is researching children’s literature.
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