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Book Shelf: Monsters by Russel Hoban

April 15, 2010

When Russel Hoban, the author whom I associate most with the adorable yet somehow unsweetened Frances the Badger Series (Bread and Jam for, Bedtime for), teams up with the inimical Quentin Blake, illustrator of so many of the characters created by Roald Dahl, the results are wonderfully horrible. I found Monsters the way I find most of our books, trawling a used book store, and sadly, it appears to be out of print (though available). Tex and Theo both love this book, in large part because of Quentin Blake’s uncannily childlike monster illustrations. And the book is absolutely packed with monsters who, and this is a quote,

“fought with passing strangers and passing spacecraft and they fought with one another, and if they found themselves alone they made threatening noises to themselves while waiting for somebody ugly to turn up. . .John’s monsters breathed smoke and fire and they used their teeth and claws when they fought. they also used guided missiles, lasers, bows and arrows, spears, clubs and rocks.”

You may be starting to understand why it’s out of print in today’s era of sanitized children’s lit, but that’s not even the most gruesome part. . .SPOILER AHEAD. . . young John, our protagonist, finally succeeds in drawing a monster so large and real that it comes off the page. And eats John’s doctor. But like I said, Tex and Theo aren’t really in it for the story, which is entertaining, but for the outrageously cool illustrations. So, if you don’t mind your kids being exposed to literary and visual violence, this is one splendid book. I’m not saying I don’t mind the guided missiles aspect, but once we’d read it once, I was too smitten by the pictures to dismiss it.

On a related note, I discovered and it’s a virtual bookshelf for the books you’ve read, are reading and want to read. You can shelve and review books you have read, you can search for books by author or title and find synopses, reviews, and edition cover art, and you can browse your friends’ virtual shelves and pull things down that you you’d like to read. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed walking into the library to choose a book, especially a recent book, so I love the idea of drawing my inspiration from friends. My awesome high school English Teacher just recommended Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and a friend from college gave a winning review to The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. As it happens, they both have incredibly lovely, well designed covers. I’m looking forward to checking them out.

You can't judge a book by its cover, but these are FANTASTIC covers.

From → book shelf, eye candy

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