cover image Monster Stew

Monster Stew

DK Publishing, Mitra Modarressi. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2517-1

In this hearty three-course storybook, Modarressi (The Beastly Visits) assembles a cast of sympathetic monsters that trump their human acquaintances. Each chapter revises a classic tale in favor of the underdog, and each cleverly refers to some stew ingredient. In ""Peas,"" for example, the dinosaurish, aqua-blue prince Thugmond compares his squat and swamp-loving best friend, Griselda, with ""a dainty, delicate girl with golden hair and a gown of silk and satin. Not Thugmond's type at all."" Given the pea-under-the-mattress test, the dainty damsel can't sleep a wink: ""A girl so rude and fussy could never make Thugmond happy,"" the king and queen decide, and finally allow Griselda a crack at the mattress (she peacefully slumbers). ""Beans"" takes the side of a hairy blue giant who falls from a beanstalk but later befriends a thief named Jack, while the title story up-ends the tale of Hansel and Gretel. Modarressi's soft, padded-looking monsters have beady eyes and spiky fur, but their facial expressions show them to be good-natured and kind. The sepia-tinged palette of terra-cotta orange, claylike brown and ash green likewise communicates warmth rather than inspiring terror. Modarressi wittily champions monsters and wryly implies that it's people who need to learn some manners. Ages 8-11. (Sept.)