Monday, October 29, 2012

6. The Monsters' Monster

Words & pictures by Patrick McDonnell
$16.99, ages 3-6, 40 pages

When three bitty monsters try to create the biggest, meanest monster ever, their plan goes awry and they're left with a monster who giggles instead.

In this adorable picture book by Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell, Grouch, Grump and Gloom 'n' Doom live for being bad, but is that all there is to life?

They think so and work at it with a passion. The trio lives in a dark monster castle on a dark monster mountain that sits above a monster-fearing village, and they have big monster thoughts.

They smash things, huff and puff about nothing, and say, "No!" as much as they can.

They also argue about who complains the loudest and who is the most miserable. And they always seal their arguments with a brawl.

The only problem is that it's never clear in the end who is worse.

So one day they decide to create a giant, hideous monster that they can all agree is the scariest of them all.

Grouch (who has striped horns and a hot dog nose) grabs tape and tacks, Grump (who is covered in fur and has a big dog nose) gets gunk and gauze, and Gloom 'n' Doom (who has two heads that resemble that of McDonnell's Mooch the cat) collects bolts and wire.

Using a ladder, they assemble their monster standing up in their dungeon. First they wind him up like a mummy, then using a scissor lift, hoist him outside into the sky on a slab of concrete and "Bam!" -- a lightning bolt jolts the monster alive.

At last, they've created something more awful than any one of them can be!

Or have they?

As their monster twitches and peels away his bandages, he looks as bad as they imagined and they rejoice with their fists in the air. But then something strange happens.

The monster, like Frankenstein's creation but with a bulbous nose and pillar-like limbs, reaches toward them and in a deep growling voice says, "Dank you!" 

"Dank you, dank you, dank you," and he scoops them up and squeezes them tight. For a moment the monsters look speechless.

Then, their ferocious monster stomps over to the window, throws it open, gazes out at the beauty of the dawn and -- giggles!

The little monsters are shaken by his outrageous behavior and shield their eyes from the warm, early light. Then they fume, as monsters should, at how wrong this is.

But the monster doesn't seem to notice and bounces through the room, patting bats and other scary little creatures gently on the head. Could he be trying to be nice to them?

No, this can't be. He's a monster and monsters have to be horrid. But to the little monsters' dismay, their monster doesn't think he's anything in particular. He's just glad to be alive.

Then suddenly, their monster crashes through the dungeon wall and heads toward to the monster-fearing village. Will he make mayhem after all? Or is there something else that will make the trio just as happy?

McDonnell's beast like Frankenstein's is a misunderstood goof who just want to be accepted. He also seeks to be part of the world rather than a threat to it, and sets off in search of a little quiet time.

The little monsters, on the other hand, think they're rough-and-tough, but they're really more cute than scary -- underscoring a recurring theme in McDonnell's books that deep down everyone has something good to give.

In the end, Grouch, Grump and Gloom 'n' Doom learn from their biggest, baddest creation that even monsters can have heart.

McDonnell once again creates a gem about appreciating life and being thankful, and along the way, makes readers feel glad for what they have too.

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