CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 27. . . .March 24, 2017
Short Stories for Little Monsters.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, 2017.
40 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
“Dad, when I grow up I want to be a ballet dancer.”
“Don’t be silly son. We’ve been trees for generations. It’s a family tradition. Be proud of your roots. I won’t hear of this ballet dancer nonsense!”
Short Stories for Little Monsters is the latest in Marie-Louise Gay’s long and growing list of vibrant, playful, attractive picture books for young readers. Gay splashes her books with colour, humour, and detail in satisfying ways. Her latest offering is no different. Short Stories for Little Monsters contains 19 separate “stories” (more accurately, they might be referred to as scenes or, perhaps, chapters). Each of the stories is presented as a depiction of something that children often wonder about: the dangers of pulling faces on windy days; whether snails have nightmares; what cats see, and the games they play; sharks in the water; and the possibility that one’s mother might not always tell the truth. The excerpt included above is just one conversation snippet taken from the double page spread episode entitled, “What do trees talk about?”
I found most of the contents in Gay’s book mildly amusing. However, I laughed aloud when I read the “Who? Me?” story depicting the thoughts of students trying to dodge their teacher while she eagerly awaits a student willing to respond to her question. I suspect that young readers might find other episodes even more humorous. It is also likely that many readers (or listeners who share the book with a teacher or parent) will encounter material in the book that gives them reason to pause and to ponder. In lots of ways, I expect Short Stories for Little Monsters will get people thinking and talking, sharing their own questions and discussing the things they wonder about.
Amongst the 19 stories, snails take an especial and unusually prevalent position. Gay’s ability to shine a light on the humble unobtrusive snail is reflective of her imagination and creativity. Gay’s watercolour, ink, pencil, and collage illustrations are presented in a cartoon or comic strip style with the written text often contained within dialogue voice balloons. It is a style that will be of appeal for many young readers, but it is also a style that will present some challengers for readers who are reading the book aloud to a young listener.
Short Stories for Little Monsters is a whimsical, attractive, and unique book.
Dr. Gregory Bryan specialises in literature for children. He is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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