cover image A Monster in the House

A Monster in the House

Elisa Kleven. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45973-6

In this chipper picture book, a girl welcomes a new kid to the neighborhood by regaling him with tales of the monster who lives in her house. She paints a gooey picture of a creature who yells for ""special monster milk and smushed-up bananas"" and smears his food on everything he touches. He spits up, drools and sucks his toes, too. After spinning a sufficiently captivating yarn, the girl comes clean about the monster's true identity: it's her messy and demanding (but much-loved) baby brother. Kleven (The Puddle Pail) honestly portrays the mixed feelings of affection and annoyance that siblings often have for one another, and her playful descriptions and teasing tone depict realistic exchanges between two new friends. The monster's appearance changes in the boy's imagination as the girl offers more details, but Kleven keeps up the suspense, with the visual revelation of the infant sibling only at story's end. She incorporates yarn, fabric and torn- and cut-paper accents into her pencil-and-gouache illustrations; the effect is a cheerful hodgepodge of color and texture, much like the pleasant disorder that children bring to a household. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)