Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fun with monsters! poetry and folklore (ages 8 - 12)

It's testing week at our school, so I want to bring a little laughter to our students. What better way than with some fun folklore and poetry. Kids love to be scared, and they love to laugh at things that can scare you. A great combination is The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters, The Monsterologist and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. They are bound to produce laughs, groans and lots of sharing with friends. These are picture books perfect for tweens in the mood for a laugh. (Note: The Monsterologist and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich are Amazon Bargain Books right now - very good deals for hardback books!)
Gruesome Guide to World MonstersThe Gruesome Guide to World Monsters
by Judy Sierra
illustrated by Henrick Drescher
MA: Candlewick, 2005
ages 8 - 12
preview on Google Books
available on Amazon and at your local library
Judy Sierra, storyteller and folklore expert, presents short descriptions of more than 60 monsters from around the world, telling readers their location, "gruesomeness rating," description and a survival tip if you're lucky. As she writes in her introduction, "From Alaska to Argentina, and from Nigeria to New Zealand, the woods and water holes are teeming with bizarre and fascinating creatures who are eager to meet tourists and travelers. The bad news is that few tourists and travelers ever live to tell about them." Her descriptions are deliciously disturbing, with just the right amount of blood for 4th and 5th graders. For example, the Cannibal Baby in the Rocky Mountains, lures unwary victims to its cave with the sound of a baby's cry.
"When someone picks up the innocent looking baby, it wails even louder. Those who do not know better put a finger or a knuckle into the baby's mouth to make it be quiet. In an instant, the cannibal baby sucks all the flesh off the person's bones."
Sierra's descriptions are wonderfully detailed, and Drescher's colorful illustrations will evoke many laughs and squeals. I can just see kids incorporating either drawings or descriptions into their own stories. Readers will love learning that the raksasa from India have green or blue faces, with "tusky yellow teeth and matted hair." While the raksasas can look like ordinary people, their fingers are "attached backwards to their hands." My only regret is that Sierra does not include any source material for her work, or recommendations for children to learn more about this rich folklore. But kids won't mind - they'll simply eat this collection up.
Frankenstein Makes a SandwichFrankenstein Makes a Sandwich
by Adam Rex
NY: Harcourt Children's Books, 2006
ages 7 - 12
preview at Google Books
available on Amazon and at your local library
This hilarious collection of poems will have kids clamoring over it every time I share it. Of course, kids are drawn in by Rex's over-the-top illustrations, with a green Frankenstein monster about to munch on a towering sandwich of the food locals threw at him. But the playful poetry has won my heart, with its playful rhymes and jokes that have me laughing each step of the way. I've found that younger kids adore the visual quality of this collection, but it's really best for tweens who understand Rex's humor in his poetry. There's a great preview available through Google Books - check it out:

Adam Rex says in an interview that the title for the book actually came first. He knew he wanted to write a book about monsters, and the title "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich" popped into his head. "I thought the combination of such a fantastic character and such an everyday activity was funny all by itself. I was convinced that most or all of the stories should follow along the same lines. The Invisible Man having trouble with an angry mob is too obvious to be funny. The Invisible Man being unable to flee the mob because his car keys have disappeared is maybe a little funnier." Adam Rex's vivid imagination, crazy-fun illustrations and inventive poetry make me laugh each and every time I read this collection. It's a joy to read again and again, discovering more each time.
The Monsterologist: A Memoir in RhymeThe Monsterologist
A Memoir in Rhyme
"ghostwritten by Bobbi Katz"
illustrated by Adam McCauley
NY: Sterling, 2009
ages 9 - 12
preview at The Monsterologist
available on Amazon and at your local library
Katz and McCauley have created a humorous parody in this memoir and scrapbook from a monsterologist who has traveled the world in search of mythical and real monsters. The design and illustrations draw readers in right away with their combination of drawings, scrapbook collages and creative fonts and layout. The playful and clever poems are occasionally gruesome, but in a way that kids love.
“Take half a dozen dozing Danes.
Split their skills.
Pull out their brains.
Tear off arms.
Tear off legs.
Add flour to
well-beaten eggs.
Fold in Danes
and you will get
a pastry to eat
baked or wet.”
Favorites include Count Dracula, writing a most cordial invitation to stay, Godzilla ("radioactive from head to toe/ Godzilla has fins that pulse and glow"), and Medusa (who will never say she's having a bad hair day). Check out the website The Monsterologist for a fun taste of the book. This book will have kids pouring over every detail, discovering more with each visit from the Monsterologist.

Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons and Monsters Pop-UpIf you've enjoyed these, you'll surely enjoy Adam Rex's companion book Frankenstein Takes the Cake. I'm guessing, like me, you're dying to see Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda's Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons and Monsters, which was just published last month. The Reinhart and Sabuda books are amazing books full of pop-ups, stories within stories, and intricate paper engineering.

The review copies all came from our school library and the public library.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. I love that poem about the Danes! It's gross, but I know it would get a laugh out of a lot of kids.

  2. Monsters during testing week sounds just about right to me!