KidLit Book Review: It Came from the Basement by M. R. Kessell


It Came from the Basement is an illustrated, inky homage to monsters and monster movies accompanied by a collection of thirty-one ridiculous rhymes to make you laugh uncomfortably in the night.


  • Title: It Came from the Basement
  • Author/Illustrator: M. R. Kessell
  • Publisher: M. R. Kessell
  • ISBN: 0692110135
  • Publication Date: May 13, 2018
  • For Ages: 9+
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.

I’d like to thank Mike Kessell for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Filled with hilarious verse and sly winks to horror movie fans, It Came from the Basement is a warped, creepy love letter to “monster kids of all ages.” M. R. Kessell’s Goreyesque rhymes and inky illustrations are a wonderfully spooky combination sure to satisfy kids and adults who like their horror weird and their humor dark.

Page after page of frights, from the absurd “brain in a jar” to the nightmarish “man with no face,” greet readers with equal parts horror and hilarity. Kessell’s attention to detail is fantastic, as subtle callbacks to previous jokes enhance the morbid humor. Questions that a slasher movie audience would be asking “Why are there so many victims? Exactly how many people are there in this accursed family?!” are answered by artistic touches like a comically full family portrait hanging discreetly in the background.

Books like this are best enjoyed when you can discover their odd little delights on your own, so I’m going to resist the urge to point out all of my favorite parts. But I do have to draw your attention to a few things that I loved:

Like any self-respecting family housing an endless supply of eldritch terrors in their basement, their street number is 237, a nod to the most haunted room in the horror genre’s scariest hotel from Stephen King’s (and Stanley Kubrick’s) The Shining.


At this point, Susie has seen so many monsters that she doesn’t bat an eye at the beastie chilling in the gravity boots behind her; no, what horrifies Susie here is the fact that all he left was the candy corn. And rightly so candy corn is disgusting.

Yeah, I said it. FIGHT ME.

I was also delighted to find a sketchbook in the back, showing the basement dwellers in their early stages, and some blank pages for young artists to draw their own monsters. Seeing the sketches may make the finished fiends a little less terrifying for younger readers sort of like seeing the man behind the curtain but I’d still use caution with showing this book to kids who are easily scared or a little too young for intense horror.


It Came from the Basement is weird, creepy fun perfect for Halloween, and even more perfect for those of us who treat every day like it’s Halloween. Get a copy for yourself and another copy for the monster under your bed.


My Best of 2018 list is growing. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins

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