cover image Monster Beach

Monster Beach

Betty Paraskevas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-292882-7

Best known for their Junior Kroll collaborations, this mother-son duo venture to the seaside with a bright but hollow bauble of a picture book. Fishing on the beach, a boy spies a huge polka-dotted sea monster. The monster does not reappear until later in the day, when a set of unruly triplets seeks refuge in the water after snatching an old man's hat. The three are promptly swept out to sea, where they are rescued by the ``monster''-which turns out to be an inflatable beach raft. Michael Paraskevas's dazzling acrylics mirror a spectrum of emotion, from the anticipatory glee of happy vacationers to the ominous scene where the boys are adrift and the monster, as yet unidentified, lurks menacingly. Unfortunately, the thin story doesn't rally the reader, and the verse is irritatingly ragged at times. A sappy ending overdoes it in lauding the monster ""who brought us together and taught us to care,/ With respect for each other, in a place we all share."" Despite the hot colors and pulsating energy of the illustrations, the venture is ultimately as limp as the deflated raft. Ages 3-8. (Apr.)