My sister and I have a term we use for a certain kind of person; we call them “sincere.” Now, we don’t use “sincere” (in quotation marks) to imply in some way that they are not sincere…because they really are. Really, really sincere. And we like that about them; we do! “Sincere” people are wonderful, caring people who have a lot to offer the world. But they’re hard for us to be around very much because, well, they don’t understand us when we speak with tongue in cheek, and, frankly, that’s the way we talk about half the time. It makes things very hard when you’re pretending to be overwrought because, say, you had to mow your whole! lawn! all by yourself in the heat! of summer! (we can be dramatic like that) and the other person tries to sincerely console you and/or offers to help you mow your yard or something. Then we just feel mean. Or whiny. And that’s totally not how we meant for what we said to be taken. So it’s hard.
I said all that to say this: this book is not for the “sincere” type. Or for families whose children are actually afraid of monsters. Or for families whose children might be afraid of monsters because of this book. They might be scarred for life. It’s for the kind of family whose four-year-old girlchild might flee from her cackling one-year-old brother while dramatically calling, “RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIIIIIFE!” Or whose young girlchild responded to a situation (like the lawnmowing one above) with a matter-of-fact, “You’ll survive!” before she hit age three. Those kinds of families. My kind of family.
It all begins innocently enough: “Once there were two perfectly delightful children”…and quickly turns a page to: “who were going through a TERRIBLE phase, which is to say they whined ALL day and night.” Their “kindly father” warns them that monsters eat whiny children, but do they listen? No! They keep whining until, one day, a monster comes and steals them away to his lair. The children whine about being made into a salad, and the monster’s wife complains about the salad dressing. When the monster fixes the dressing to her liking, a neighbor comes by and suggests making them into whiny-child burgers instead. The kids start playing quietly with each other (instead of whining) while the monsters (new ones keep arriving) have several other changes of mind and mishaps before they settle on having whiny-child cucumber sandwiches…at which point they realize that the two children have escaped (and also that cucumber sandwiches–for which the recipe is included–are tasty even without whiny children in them). The children return home and never whine again, except sometimes. 🙂
The illustrations are low-detail black ink with a few watercolor accents (such as the red eyes and mouths of the whiny children) on white pages with black ink-line frames. Despite the subject matter, they aren’t particularly scary (unless your child happens to be particularly susceptible to being scared by monsters). The characters are drawn with basic outlines (as seen on the cover art image of the two children peeking out of a pot), but the illustrator manages to convey quite a bit with the expressions and colors used, and that probably comes from a lot of practice as he has been a cartoonist for the New Yorker. (With that bit of information–and the fact that he has also written for the television series Seinfeld and Six Feet Under–you probably ought to know that this is the author’s only book (so far, at least) for children although he has published several other picture books and books of cartoons for adults. I don’t recommend reading those ones to your four-year-old, no matter how precocious!) Sometimes the illustration spans both pages, sometimes there are multiple images per page, and the last page is actually completely blank except for a single sentence at the very bottom right corner of the page. The pictures are fun, but the whole tone of the book is set in the brusque dialogue and offhand way in which monsters who eat children are discussed.
GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild found this book hilarious (after first being reminded that monsters aren’t real). She brought the concept back up several times during the rest of the day after we read it, saying things like, “If there were real monsters, maybe they’d eat GOOD kids instead of whiny ones! Hahaha!” (I told her that they probably wouldn’t be that discerning and would probably eat any child they encountered, so she should probably not whine just in case. 😉 ) She even interrupted her own whining later to smirk and slyly say, “I hope the monsters don’t come eat me!” or some similar nonsense. (I do love that crazy girl.) I’d recommend this book for children with a sly sense of humor who might also be in one of those TERRIBLE phases and need to giggle their way out of it.