cover image THE MONSTER SHOW: Everything You Never Knew About Monsters

THE MONSTER SHOW: Everything You Never Knew About Monsters

Charise Mericle Harper, . . Houghton, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-618-38797-7

Standing at the edge of a proscenium stage, a top-hatted MC addresses a theatre full of kids and parents. "Everyone knows monsters are scary !" he declaims. His purpose, however, is not to frighten the audience but rather to educate them in a "monster tell-all." With piñata-bright illustrations that bring to mind outsider art crossed with the visual traditions of Latin America, Harper (The Trouble with Normal ) reveals a series of goofy tableaux devoted to "not so scary" monstrosities. "Even monsters look silly when they are just wearing underpants," the MC points out, as a quartet of creatures models tidy whiteys and boxer shorts. Unfortunately, the text falls short of the pictures' sparkle; the artwork may borrow from the conventions of the theatre, but there's a curious lack of theatricality to the narration. Still the totem-like monsters are so wonderfully imagined and endearingly silly that they may well defuse youngsters' fears about what's lurking under the bed or in the closet. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)