cover image The Monsterator

The Monsterator

Keith Graves. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-855-2

Graves (Chicken Big) returns with an offering that’s part story, part activity book. It opens with a painting of Master Edgar Dreadbury, a boy in a red blazer who glowers from an oversize wing chair as he weighs and rejects the usual Halloween costume possibilities (“A zombie? A clown? A ventriloquist’s dummy?/ He frowned and complained, They’re all equally crummy”). In a deserted storefront, Edgar finds the Monsterator, a vending machine with a circus-tent top and a filigreed, steampunk-style exterior. A dime in the slot and the sizzling, Frankensteinian monsteration begins: “When the machine finally quit,/ Edgar crashed through the door./ He banged on his chest with his fists and roared.” With his new horns, fangs, and dragon tail, Edgar can do some world-class scaring. The final pages consist of split monster spreads that let readers “monsterate” Edgar by mixing parts from fly, robot, skeleton, and other creatures. Despite the gray fog that hovers over everything, Graves’s acrylic paintings are funnier than they are scary, full of guaranteed child-pleasers like Edgar chowing down on spaghetti and meatballs out of a dog dish. Ages 7–10. (Aug.)