cover image Maurice the Unbeastly

Maurice the Unbeastly

Amy Dixon, illus. by Karl James Mountford. Sterling, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4549-1953-7

Dixon (Sophie’s Animal Parade) and German-British illustrator Mountford introduce a “ridiculously photogenic” beast named Maurice who prefers munching on kale to roaring, destroying things, and other monstrous pursuits. Fed up, Maurice’s parents send him to the Abominable Academy for Brutish Beasts, hoping to make him a bit “less civilized.” What’s a vegetarian monster with a “dreadfully melodious” singing voice to do? As outsider stories go, Dixon’s charts a familiar path, with Maurice racking up criticism at the academy until his benevolent attitude saves the day—in this case, when an adorable dog shows up at school and confounds the other beasts. “Here, creature-creature,” Maurice coos before taming the dog with an alfalfa fritter. Despite the story’s predictability, Dixon’s effervescent writing delivers a message about individuality with a light touch and Mountford’s illustrations bring an appropriately creepy-cute atmosphere to the pages. Colored in drab shades of crimson, mustard, and olive, they picture Maurice as a happy-go-lucky beastie with black fur, a spiky tail, and a gentle, soulful bearing, in contrast to the ill-tempered lobster-beasts, gorgons, and dragons at his new school. Ages 3–up. (Sept.)