Kids love monsters. Actually, kids like the idea of monsters, along with that delicious feeling of being a little bit scared. However, at midnight, a child’s fear of monsters doesn’t seem quite so adorable, does it? Here are a few books to send a shiver of fear down a child’s spine without disturbing too much sleep.

A GENTLE GIANT
One of my favorite books of the season is Patrick McDonnell’s The Monsters’ Monster. Grouch, Grump and Gloom ‘n’ Doom are little monsters who mess with each other all the time. Their favorite 10 words are “No” and they argue over who is the worst monster. Each argument ends in a brawl until they work together to build the “biggest, baddest monster EVER!” In a scene out of Frankenstein, their creation is struck by lightning and comes to life. Imagine the little monsters’ surprise when the huge new monster speaks his first words, “Dank you.” This monster, though enormous, is a gentle thing and his clumsy celebration in the land of the living will amuse the youngest readers and help them reassess their fears of monsters. A gem.

THE ABCs OF MONSTERS
For children who love all sorts of monsters, The Monster Alphabet, written by Michael P. Spradlin and illustrated by Jeff Weigel, will be a perfect handbook. From Abominable Snowman to Jabberwocky to Zombies, this little volume will provide the monster aficionado with hours of delight. Our trip through the alphabet is led by a narrator who appears to be the Indiana Jones of monster seekers. Each letter is explained with a simple rhyme, telling just a little about monsters familiar and rare. Who among the uninitiated knows what a Kraken or a Redcap is. Or a quetzalcoatl? Weigel’s bold and colorful illustrations add funny and interesting details without being too terrifying. More a study guide than a story, this is the kind of book that kids love to memorize and then use to impress friends with their esoteric knowledge.

AN UNFORGETTABLE SING-ALONG
The 1960s song “Monster Mash” is one of those ditties that gets into your brain and refuses to let go. The picture book version by David Catrow, Monster Mash, is just as memorable. Catrow’s over-the-top, wild illustrations are a perfect match for the song’s catchy lyrics (“I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight”). From Pepto-Bismol pink to iridescent greens, Catrow’s many-eyed creatures spring to life beside guitar-wielding zombie musicians and one hilarious dancing dog. Try reading Monster Mash aloud to a group—the children will be entertained, and you’ll be humming the song to yourself for hours.

ONE BY ONE
“Ten creepy monsters met ‘neath a gnarled pine. One blew away, and then there were nine.” The early reader set will enjoy Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis’s Ten Creepy Monsters as it counts down a dwindling roster of unfortunate monsters. With rich language and a delightfully dark nighttime palette, this pleasing rhyme begs to be acted out or performed with puppets. Though the text has the bounce of a preschool finger play, the illustrations are appropriately ghoulish. The zombie holding onto his lost foot might be a bit much for the youngest reader but the rest of the illustrations are the right balance of slightly scary and funny. The final spread in the book contains a surprise that is subtly delivered, allowing any scaredy cat to be reassured.

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