Today I am really chuffed to welcome Niamh Sharkey to Library Mice for a Fabulous Five feature on monsters! We have always been big fans of Niamh’s at home and own many of her books: Tales from Old Ireland  and Cinderella are amongst our all-time favourites, and Santasaurus, which is still one of our regular reads at Christmas time.

Thanks to this feature and Walker Books, we have also discovered two further titles, I’m a Happy Hugglewug (reviewed here) and On the Road with Mavis and Marge (reviewed here), which is the winner of the DDA Children’s Book of the Year 2010 (Junior).

Check out Niamh’s web site and also her blog.

Niamh grew up in the 1970s in Ireland; her mum says that “she always had her head stuck in a book.’ Her favourite books when she was a little one were Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Dr Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat.
Before becoming an artisit Niamh worked as a pot washer, a waitress, a roundy-toed shoe-saleswoman, a piano teacher and a lifeguard.. Her first book Tales of Wisdom and Wonder collected both The Mother Goose Award and The Bisto Book of the Year Award in 1999. Her second book The Gigantic Turnip was a great success and has been translated into twenty languages. Her books The Ravenous Beast, Santasaurus and I’m a Happy Hugglewug have also have continued to receive critical acclaim, I’m A Happy Hugglewug won the Scottish Highland Children’s Book Award in 2007 and is currently being developed into an pre-school animation series with Brown Bag Films.

Five Fabulous Picture books about Monsters
by Niamh Sharkey

Monsters Monsters Everywhere!!!!

I keep coming back to monsters in my own work, partly because I grew up glued to the Muppet Show before bedtime every Sunday night. Also with monsters you can really explore strong emotions and feelings, so important in picture books. Monsters books give children stories with teeth that they really can hold on to. Don’t just read these stories… eat them up too!

Go Away Big Green Monster!
Ed Emberley

We can’t get enough of Ed Emberely’s drawing books in our house. Hours have been spent doodling from his activity book, ‘Make a World.’ And if you haven’t heard of this monster classic ‘Go Away Big Green Monster!’ you have to get a copy.

“What has a bluish-greenish nose, sharp white teeth, and big yellow eyes? It’s a Big Green Monster!” This book is all about letting the reader take charge, with each turn of the page, a new piece of the monster is revealed, until all of a big, green monster has taken shape. Then, with the words, “You don’t scare me!” Page by page, the monster slowly disappears.

This book is an amazing read aloud and very empowering. It’s strong graphics and wonderful colours make it a favourite. Ingenious!

The Monster Who Ate Darkness
Joyce Dunbar & Jimmy Liao
An innovative way of exploring well-worn material; Dunbar recasts the monster of her story as a kind of childlike magical helper. Taiwanese illustrator Jimmy Liao paints crisp watercolours; and the story unfolds like a dream in which the monster’s appetite is shown to be without bounds, mostly through vignettes with white borders.

This had a really strong impact on two of my children, Oscar aged 6 and Aoibhe aged 4. Oscar announced after studying each page carefully for 20 minutes and not uttering a word, ‘This book is a 20 out of 10!’ It was brought to bed and stored under Oscar’s pillow for repeated readings.

Aoibhe told me that the monster ‘licks the darkness up.’ Pointing to the illustration of the monster cradling Jo-Jo in his arms she said, ‘Darkness come out of that guy, and go back to where it was in the sky. I love this!’

Morris The Mankiest Monster
Giles Andreae & Sarah McIntyre

I couldn’t leave this one out; it was billed as the most revolting picture book of last year. The rhyming text just gets worse and worse as you read about snot, earwax, dung and bogeys. There’s even potatoes growing out of Morris’s pants! I love that this book was deemed so disgusting that lots of publishers originally turned it down. Kids will absolutely love it!

Sarah McIntyre draws Morris with such energy and gusto. Her illustrations of Morris are cheeky and charming and have loads of details that kids will love to pour over; like when Morris flosses his teeth with slugs. UUUGH!

Leonardo the Terrible Monster
Mo Willems

After years of writing scripts and animating for Sesame Street Mo Williams makes picture books that are really in tune with kids and that can be really, really funny. He really tickles the funny bone of a preschooler. He’s been compared to ‘Dr. Seuss for the 21st century.’

Leonardo is a terrible monster–as in he can’t scare anybody. “He’s not big, doesn’t have 1,642 teeth ‘ He tries really hard to be scary. But he just isn’t. He gets an idea: find the most “scaredy-cat kid” in the whole world and “scare the tuna salad” out of him.
Simple in execution and style and great as a read aloud. We love to shout along and join in with this book at bedtime.

Where The Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak
What can I say but…I LOVE this book! This picture book has teeth. Where the Wild Things Are is unquestionably the best picture book of all time. Elegantly concise, but with real heart. I got a copy from America when I was little and it had a huge effect on me.

This book touches on the fierceness of love and flashes of hate that small children feel toward their parents. It acknowledges the child’s need to venture forth, but leaves room for the child to return safety. The text and the artwork complement one another seamlessly. And what amazing illustrations!

Every child should have this book. I love this so much I want to ‘Eat it up!’

Thank you so much to Niamh for taking the time to write to take part. What a fantastic selection! I was glad to see Morris, in her selection, a particular favourite of the Library Mice household! Thank you also to Walker Books for their help.