CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number . . . . November 10, 2017
Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Colin Jack.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2017.
64 pp., hardcover & epub, $16.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-553-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-555-5 (epub).
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Kay Weisman.
One night, Leo really, REALLY had to go. He took a deep breath.
“Hey, you!” he said.
The monster stopped growling. “You mean me?”
“Yes,” said Leo. “You.”
“Oh,” said the monster, sounding surprised.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” said Leo. A long time passed.
“Do you want me to come with you?” asked the monster.
“NO!” said Leo.
“Well, what do you want?”
“Nothing,” said Leo. “Just stay there. Don’t move. Do nothing.”
“Okay,” said the monster.
Leo couldn’t believe it was so easy. He got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. Nobody grabbed his ankles.
He walked back. Nobody grabbed his ankles again.
“Wow!” thought Leo as he got into bed.
“Was that okay?” asked the monster.
“That was fine,” said Leo.
“Well,” said the monster, “goodnight then.”
“Goodnight,” said Leo. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
“Bugs?” said the monster. “There are bugs here?”
“No,” said Leo. “No bugs. Go to sleep.”
In five brief chapters suitable for beginning chapter book readers, Bailey introduces Leo and the noisy monster that lives under his bed. After Leo summons his courage to confront the creature (see above,) he gives him a name – Fred. Later the hairy beast demonstrates his skills as a shape shifter and protects Leo when a bully comes to play. Finally, Fred accompanies Leo to school where he participates in show and tell.
Bailey’s succinct but never clunky text offers a satisfying story with relatable characters, familiar situations, and a convincing friendship. Leo is able to deal with his fears and problems because Fred is always there to back him up (“It’s my job.”); likewise Leo serves as an appreciative audience for Fred’s jokes and performances, even if they sometimes go awry, as happens at school.
Jack’s digital illustrations sport a cartoony-vibe, well-suited to the humorous text. He uses a limited colour palette—black and grey tones highlighted with splashes of colour, mostly reds and blues—with brown for furry Fred. Never threatening, the monster looks particularly goofy throughout, but especially when he is depicted in Leo’s father’s overcoat.
The first of a projected series, Under-the-Bed Fred is a sure winner. Be prepared with multiple copies.
Kay Weisman works as a youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.
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