Monsters & Superheroes: Picture Books

Monsters and superheroes … they’re larger than life, and boys love ’em.  These picture books (featuring one or the other) are brilliantly fun, with big bold illustrations that grab the attention of listeners and readers alike.

I Need My Monster, by Amanda Noll (lexile: 490; AR book level: 3.0; 32 pp)

One night, when Ethan checks under his bed for his regular monster, Gabe, he finds this note from him instead: “Gone fishing.  Back in a week.”  Oh no!  How will Ethan get to sleep without the ragged breathing and scraping claws of his monster?  After a quick rap on the floor and climb back into bed, a series of four substitute monsters arrives for Ethan’s approval.  But Herbert has no claws and has never even scared a kid before (“though I’ve read all the best books on the topic”).  Cynthia has the requisite claws and tail, but she’s a girl monster, and everyone knows a boy needs a boy monster.  And what’s with Ralph and the nail-polished claws?  None measures up to good ol’ Gabe.  Will Gabe come back in time to save the day (or the night)?  Very funny, the monster pictures are GREAT, and a delightful way to defuse a common childhood fear.

The Monster Who Did My Math, by Danny Schnitzlein (lexile: NA; AR book level: 3.1; 32 pp)

It’s late on a Sunday night, and the arithmephobic* narrator of this clever rhyming tale is bemoaning his math homework, yet to be done.  Suddenly there appears in his bedroom a monster, who offers to do the work for him — the boy just has to sign the contract.  He does, and his problems are solved (“in more ways than one”).  He gets an A+ on the homework — but doesn’t do so well when the teacher calls him to the board.  That night he fumes at the monster, who calmly points out in the contract: “In paragraph seven of clause ninety-three, If YOU don’t learn anything, do not blame ME!”  He’s ready to give the monster the boot — but first he has to pay the bill!  Will his math skills be up to the task?  Very funny, and an ideal read-aloud for math teachers at the beginning of the school year.

Equally funny (though the illustrations aren’t quite as good) is the author’s similar The Monster Who Ate My Peas.

*Arithmephobic:  Yes, I made this word up.  I like it.  I bet you can figure it out.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems (lexile: 670; AR book level: 2.3; 44 pp)

Leonardo was a terrible monster.  Not terribly scary, not terribly big, not terribly weird.  Terrible because he couldn’t scare ANYONE.  Finally he hatches a plan — find the “most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world” and “scare the tuna salad out of him”!  So he sneaks up on unsuspecting Sam and lets him have it!  Sam cries — but not, it turns out, because he was scared.  And Leonardo makes a BIG decision: he may not be a terrible monster, but he could be a very good friend.  As with all Willems’ work, the spare text and big, uncluttered illustrations perfectly mesh to tell a story that invites the child’s imagination to fill in the details.

Superhero ABC, by Bob McLeod (lexile: NA; AR book level: 2.4; 40 pp)

There’s no plot here, but for an ABC book, this one is fun.  How about a superhero for every letter of the alphabet?  For example:

A — Astr0-Man: Always Alert for An Alien Attack (He’s Awesome!  He Avoids Asteroids!  He has Asthma!)
G — Goo Girl: Shoots Great Gobs of Goo at Gangsters (Gross!  Gulp!  She wears Goggles!  And Gloves!)

… and so on, all the way to The Yellow Yeller and The Zinger.  I don’t think kids will learn the alphabet any better, but they’ll love the colorful comic-book style illustrations, and enjoy the alliterative silliness of some of the superheroes.

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, by Michael Chabon (lexile: 600; AR book level: NA; 36 pp)

The bright, retro-comic artwork of this book will grab any young boy with a love for superheroes.  And Awesome Man certainly has everything a superhero should:

  • a red cape
  • a “stylin’ letter ‘A’ on his chest”
  • eyes that shoot positronic rays
  • super strength (“…sometimes when you’re a super hero like me, you have to smash into things.”)
  • his secret Fortress of Awesome, hidden beneath the depths of the Arctic Ocean
  • a faithful sidekick, Moskowitz the Awesome Dog
  • bad guy enemies, like Professor Von Evil and the Flaming Eyeball

And he has a Secret Identity, hidden (though guessable) until the end of the book.  There’s a bit of moral (about handling anger), but kids will just love the AWESOME pictures and portrayal of Awesome Man’s powers as he “kicks some bad guy behind.”

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