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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Love Monster

Author and Illustrator: Rachel Bright
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books, 2012

You can't help but smile as you read Love Monster; it has wit and charm in equal measure, and dips in and out of first, second and third person, addressing and positioning the audience in a way that feels quiet original and fun for this age children's lit. 
My daughter (3) certainly likes the directed sympathy for poor 'funny-looking' monster, with 'This is a monster' (hello, monster) leading her to wave frantically at the page as the book opens. 
The book has a sardonic narrative, a monster (incidentally very cute looking itself in illustration, with teddy under his arm), finding it hard to fit in within a 'world of cute, fluffy things.' Monster has had enough of being shunned so decides to 'set out and find someone who'll love him, just the way he was.' Unravelling then, as a classic British underdog story for preschoolers, monster endures a tough and fruitless journey on the search for this true love. Just as he gives up, as the well known narrative goes, when life has beaten him down so low, monster finds his love, 'just when he was least expecting.

The book is funny on many levels, from the serendipitous twist in the storyline, to the inconsequential moments in the illustrations, pencil behind monster's ear, all very clever. The hyperbolic cartoon-like incidents, such as the rain cloud exacting over monster's head, monster's downcast eyes and list of crossed off preposition orientated places to search for love, 'high, low, middleish' etc, make this a real chuckling treat to read as a parent. Children seem to cope with the more abstract or knowledge dependent humour in the book quite well, so for example, my daughter understands that the monster mistakes a new person for a costume in shop, his shadow and his reflection in the water, quite readily. She's less au fair with the tongue-in-cheek names for places, such as 'Cutesville', and so some aspects of the book are going over her head (but there's no harm in this, they're just adult jokes, parent pleasers). 

Stylistically, funky typefont used, simple illustrations, big brassy backgrounds, even some filmic conventions, such as the close up of monster searching the letterbox in a classic body fragmentation shot...very funny for us film buffs. Simple storytelling voice and plenty of colloquial, so for example, 'having lost all his umpf', which makes the book very endearing and pleasurable, amusing to read. 
All in all, a lovely, fun, uplifting book for bedtime.

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