The Monster Next Door

David Soman. Dial, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-42783-4

Ladybug Girl co-creator Soman charts the highs and lows of a nascent friendship in this quirky, sensitive story. His hero, Boy, has a fine-looking tree house, and he soon gets a neighbor, Monster—a purple, gumdrop-shaped creature with a tree house of his own. After the two bond over bad jokes, silly dances, and muscle poses, an improbable friendship forms. But a musical celebration turns sour when Monster’s sousaphone drowns out Boy’s kazoo, leading to name-calling and a gigantic water balloon fight: “The Boy saw it clearly—the Monster was mean.” Soman makes good use of full-page images and panel sequences to show the gulf between the two characters, one that is addressed by a change in perspective. After traveling to Monster’s tree house to deliver a “not friends” note, Boy realizes how much fun they had together (“Things looked different over here”). The soft swishes of color and bursts of onomatopoeia (like the “splort” of a bursting water balloon) add lightness to a story that highlights the value of embracing difference and keeping an open mind. Ages 3–5. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)