Image: Against a blue background, a red mummy wrapped in light grey fabric shrieks as three sparking electrical wires protrude from his head.

KidLit Book Review: The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature by Hal Johnson and Tim Sievert


Synopsis

Meet the monsters in this who’s who of the baddest of the bad!

Like those supernatural beasts everyone knows and fears—the bloodsucking vampire, Count Dracula, and that eight-foot-tall mash-up of corpses, Frankenstein’s Monster. Or that scariest of mummies, Cheops, who scientists revived after 4,700 years—big mistake! Or more horrifying yet, the Horla, an invisible, havoc-wreaking creature that herds humans like cattle and feeds of their souls.

Drawn from the pages of classic books and tales as old as time, this frightfully exciting collection features 25 of the creepiest creatures ever imagined, from witches and werewolves to dragons and ghosts. Every monster is brought to life in a full-size full-color portrait that captures the essence of the beast, and in lively text that recounts the monster’s spine-tingling story. With sidebars that explore the history and the genre of each sourcebook, The Big Book of Monsters is an exciting introduction to literature and language arts.


Details

  • Title: The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature
  • Author: Hal Johnson
  • Illustrator: Tim Sievert
  • Cover Artist: Tim Sievert, illustration; Sara Corbett, design
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing
  • ISBN: 152350711X
  • Publication Date: September 3, 2019
  • For Ages: 8-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Workman Publishing for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.


Review

The Big Book of Monsters is a gleefully wide-ranging look at spooky and scary creatures throughout the history of literature and folklore. Witty and informative, it is a terrific resource for young monster enthusiasts and for readers who might be reluctant to read older works. The illustrations are gorgeous, with bold lines and saturated colors that contrast sharply between deep darks and piercing neons. Cartoony and eerie, the art style is perfect for middle grade horror fans.

The format makes for brisk reading, with hilarious classifications for each creature that include “most dastardly deeds” and a “fear factor” rating that calls to mind comic book power grids. Each entry includes quotes from the source material and provides fun facts and interesting analysis to get kids thinking critically about the stories and the people who created them.

Image: A blue-skinned vampire with a dark cloak and long yellow fangs descends a Gothic staircase and points menacingly at the viewer. A yellow crescent moon shines behind him in a large window.

This encyclopedia of monsters, ghouls, and creeps will open up a world of reading. The book references classics of literature and mythology from all over the world. Encouraging kids to broaden their horizons and seek out other books is always a wonderful thing, but with so many caregivers struggling to find activities for children during our current global situation, it’s even more beneficial to have a book that might lead kids to seek out Jules Verne and Japanese myths and Mary Shelley and the Epic of Gilgamesh. (Especially when most, if not all, of the source material can be found for free on public domain reading sites like Project Gutenberg!)

Image: An orange monster with a muscular, furry body and huge tusks on his head breathes yellow fire and charges at the viewer.

With its striking art and engaging text, The Big Book of Monsters is a fun and spooky introduction to the history of literary monsters. Kids will love the dynamic illustrations and the wry humor, and they are sure to find at least a few monsters that inspire them to read beyond the covers of this fantastic collection. The back matter includes a wealth of resources as well, making this a must-have title for any monster enthusiast’s library.


Rating

An ambitious, joyful ode to monsters! I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins


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