Monday, October 29, 2012

1. Monster Mash

Pictures by David Catrow
$16.99, ages 4 and up, 40 pages

A laboratory monster rises off its slab and does a herky-jerky dance, in this hysterical rendition of the 1962 novelty song, Monster Mash.

Illustrator David Catrow brings his splashy, frenetic art to the classic song by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and Lenny Capizzi, and gets readers dancing in their seats.

Late one night, as the song goes, a begoggled scientist flips the switch to his monster's electrodes and his monster begins a wild, stomping dance.

As the monster lifts a giant brick foot, he nearly squishes the scientist, then lurches ahead, swishing his bottom this way and that, as he gets down with a spiky-furred hepcat.

On bended knees with arms swaying like they're doing the Watusi, the two dip and swivel across a two-page spread, sending ghouls racing down from their castle abodes to get into the rhythm too.

Getting their own jolts of electricity, the wild parade of stitch-up creatures descend on the laboratory, and sip cups of furry caterpillars and twist their limbs.

In one corner, a green octopus with a scrambled skull shimmies with Wolf Man. As Wolf Man sings, his eyes scrunch up and it looks as if his voice would be as gravelly as Wolfman Jack's.

Then a seven-eyed monster with puckered lips and suction cups on his arms joins a fuzzy balled monster with a rainbow beak and a zombie with a worm wiggling out his skull to share sips of the wriggly punch.

Outside, above by the castle clock, other monsters join in. Igor sits atop a gargoyle shaking his chains. Beside him on the ledge, a hound dog (Catrow's Max Spaniel) bays out with another two-headed hound.

Down below, a hearse rumbles up to the castle, its headlight casting an eerie glow. The car's roof looks like a forest of barbed spikes and in the middle of the roof is a wildly flaming torch. Could more guests be coming?

Why, the coffin-bangers are here with The Crypt-Kicker Five. (This is also name of the original band that recorded Pricket's song.) A skeleton with stringy clothes and big bass guitar drags himself out of the hearse.

In a rock star entrance, he dives down on one knee, as his hair flies like a mop, then he launches into the chorus, "They played the mash. / They played the monster mash. / The monster mash. / It was a graveyard smash."

But not everyone is thrilled it's a smash and soon a disgruntled Drac rises from his coffin.. "Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?" he cries out, then rings his fist, as roaches fly out of them and a fanged teddy bear sinks its teeth into his other hand.

Is there some way to appease old Drac? Perhaps he could jam on the pipe organ?

If readers thought the song was silly, they haven't seen anything yet. Catrow's interpretation makes the pages rock, as crazy weird creatures lunge and stretch across folds in electricified moves.

Readers will love poking around every page. Specimen bottles hold horrifically fun creations: furry, lizardy things with one big eye or big brained worms with fuzzy tails.

On other pages, frazzled skeletons spit out teeth as they belt out lyrics, as hopelessly silly creatures lumber in. One monster wearing a teacup for a diaper greets a furry dog monster with seven wet noses on its tummy.

Catrow lets loose like never before and unleashes his outrageously funny imagination for a song that seems he was always meant to illustrate.

This is a book to put in a child's lap as he listens to the original Monster Mash on CD -- over and over, because one time through won't be enough.

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