cover image The Beastly Visits

The Beastly Visits

Mitra Modarressi. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09530-0

Modarressi (The Parent Thief; The Dream Pillow) tries to assuage monster-under-the-bed fears by making the legendary creature a kindly, amiable sort. Newton, a lavender-striped youngster with hair like blades of grass, a protruding forehead and two beady, wide-spaced eyes, wishes to befriend a human boy named Miles. He sneaks through a trap door, then makes a classic (and hilarious) move: ""Gently, he poked Miles's foot as it dangled over the side of the bed."" In her most evocative spread, Modarressi zooms in for a close-up of Newton's tentative expression, then of Miles's amazed stare, allowing readers to compare monster and human facial features. The author/artist avoids taking the invisible-friend route once Miles and Newton become playmates; Newton boldly ventures into daylight, where he learns that Miles, too, is an outcast of sorts. The conclusion, however, is both banal and unlikely: Newton overcomes a playground bully, winning the admiration of human children for himself and for Miles. Modarressi has established a unique and haunting style of watercolor illustration, using muted earth tones like creamy white, mossy green and rich reddish-brown. Yet her narrative lacks the inventive depth and eerie charm of her previous efforts. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)