cover image Monster Friends

Monster Friends

Kaeti Vandorn. Random House Graphic, $12.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-9848-9682-7

Cyclops Reggie, a small, shape-shifting monster (imagine an UglyDoll as interpreted by Miyazaki) is taking some time after a frightening adventure with his friend Clovis leaves him feeling isolated and unsettled (“Surprises aren’t fun all the time”). On his own for the summer while caring for his cousins’ house, he reluctantly enters a conversation with Emily, a gregarious rabbit-like creature who is also a good listener. With comic enthusiasm, Emily helps introduce Reggie to new adventures and new friends—sweet-faced beasts including tigers and owls, and a golden glowing sea serpent (characters introduced in Vandorn’s Crabapple Trouble also make cameo appearances). The color palette is clear and bright, and the panels’ irregular outlines enliven their carefully composed, easily legible interiors. Vandorn effectively employs a pastoral seaside landscape to slow the story’s rhythm as well as visually work through Reggie’s internal struggles and growing confidence. Though the ending comes a bit abruptly, this appealing, candy-colored treat offers a winning friendship and gentle encouragement: “It takes a lot of practice to be brave.” Ages 5–8. [em](June) [/em]