Picture Books with Fun (and Sometimes Friendly) Monsters

shelved under Children's Books

Monster stories are like roller coasters – as long as you know they’re safe, it’s fun to scare yourself just a little bit. Here are some of my favorite monster picture books to read aloud for library story times. Each book stars scary-silly monsters treated a bit tongue-in-cheek, and each features superb illustrations and a delightful twist at the end.

When a Monster Is Born

When a Monster Is Born

by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Nick Sharratt

This engaging circular tale begins when a not-so-scary lime green monster with buck teeth is born, and there are two possibilities: either it’s a “far-away-in-the-forests monster” or it’s an “under-your-bed monster.” One choice is a dead end; the other leads to two more possibilities, and so on, as the monster goes to school, eats the principal and – can it be? – ultimately falls in love. The big, bright colorful pictures and the pacing of the page turns make it an ideal read aloud. Once your listeners catch on, they’ll be chanting “there are TWO possibilities” and “that’s that!” with each repetition. (Recommended for Preschool through 2nd grade)

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The Monster Who Did My Math

The Monster Who Did My Math

by Danny Schnitzlein, illustrated by Bill Mayer

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 room a monster who offers to do it for him — but can the boy afford the price? Of course he learns in the end that homework can be fun AND worthwhile. The artwork is bright and bold, and the rhyme almost Seuss-like. The story sneaks in some actual calculations, so is good for kids old enough to understand addition, subtraction, and decimal points. I think every math teacher should read this aloud at the beginning of the semester! (*Yes, I made this word up. I like it.) (1st to 3rd grade)

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I Need My Monster

I Need My Monster

by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

The tables are turned on monster fears in this funny tale. Ethan NEEDS his regular under-the-bed monster, Gabe, to scare him just enough so he can go to sleep. What's he to do when one night he finds a note saying Gabe's gone on a fishing trip? A parade of substitute monsters vie for the job, each with its particular quirks, but none measures up to Gabe. The story is magic in that it doesn't dismiss monster fears, but rather puts the boy squarely in charge of getting just the monster he wants. (Kindergarten to 3rd grade)

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Leonardo, the Terrible Monster

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster

by Mo Willems

Leonardo was a TERRIBLE monster — terrible because he couldn't scare ANYONE. So he hatches a plot to find the "most scaredy-cat kid" in the world — and ends up making a 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. (Preschool to 2nd grade)

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Jeremy Draws a Monster

Jeremy Draws a Monster

by Peter McCarty

Like Crockett Johnson's well-known Harold and the Purple Crayon, this book sparks the imagination with a boy who draws things that become real. Lonely Jeremy one day draws himself a monster, but the monster turns out to be a rather rude and demanding companion. Before you reach the end, ask listeners what THEY would draw to get Jeremy out of his predicament, and then see how his ingenious solution more than meets his needs. (Kindergarten to 2nd grade)

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Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie

by Joel Stewart

In this clever, cumulative tale, Dexter Bexley bumps into a Big (and Bored) Blue Beastie, who can't think of anything more interesting to do than eat Dexter. Dexter comes up with one plan after another to distract the Beastie, until the unexpected and happy ending. The story is sophisticated enough to make adults smile, and the Beastie behaves more like a dapper English gentleman than a scary monster. (Preschool to 3rd grade)

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Five Ugly Monsters

Five Ugly Monsters

by Tedd Arnold

Take "five little monkeys jumping on the bed," make them monsters instead, and then add Tedd Arnold's distinctive, humorous, bug-eyed creatures, and you have a sure-to-please picture book for toddlers. (ages 3 to 5)

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