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5 Monstrous Picture Books You Need to Own

Okay, so my four-year-old daughter is a book hound. She has a four shelf bookcase crammed with books. Then there’s the walk-in closet with two more shelves of books. Plus the seasonal books. So I guess she’ll be a reader.

When I cracked out the Halloween books this year, I noticed her gravitate to certain ones more than others. And since I’m still doing most of the reading, I also push her toward various titles. Thank goodness we both like the same books. I’d hate to have to read some dreary couplets night after night until trick or treat time.

Finally I got to thinking about the best books in her collection. For pure Halloween, she has maybe fifteen books, and just general creepy or monster books, you could add perhaps ten or fifteen more (I haven’t done an official count).

The five books that follow are the ones I can read over and over and never tire of. Plus she digs these books and comes back to them.

Zombie in Love
Written by Kelly DiPucchio
Pictures by Scott Campbell

We picked this up a week ago in Barnes and Noble. I knew my daughter liked it because we read probably the whole Halloween selection and she only wanted this one. (I did put all the books back in their places).

What’s not to love about a zombie love story. It stars poor Mortimer who just wants someone to dance with. He’s accompanied by a group of tiny worms and his decaying dog. Mortimer is, of course, a zombie. So his come ons to women are molding chocolates and a diamond ring with a rotting finger. (My wife says this is the unrealistic part, as any woman would still take the ring, finger or no.)

The tale is sweet and hilarious as Mortimer tries and fails to get a date for the Cupid’s Ball dance (making this an excellent book also for Valentine’s day). I don’t think I’m spoiling too much when I say he does find someone. The final pages show the couple eating a brain cake picnic in the park. Ah, zombie love.

Halloween Night
Written by Marjorie Dennis Murray
Pictures by Brandon Dorman

I also picked this up a week ago (though the book came out in 2008). I was initially attracted to the Dorman’s amazing illustrations. Mostly I was searching for books with lots of monsters in them. My daughter loves the Universal monsters and likes to see the whole array represented. (Ideally, I want a werewolf book, but those are sadly lacking.)

When I got the book home and started reading it, I noticed that it was a riff off “The Night Before Christmas.” Check out these lines:

’Twas Halloween night, and all through the house
Every creature was stirring, including the mouse;
The walls were aflutter with little brown bats,
While hordes of black spiders crept out of the cracks.

The art inside is captivating. There are bats, spiders, zombies, ghosts, mummies, goblins and a two headed creature called Ogre and Olaf. This is exactly what you imagine a Halloween book should be. A fun ride with lots of monsters.

The plot here is simple. Instead of Santa Claus visiting a house, a witch is setting up a party for the trick or treaters. But when they arrive, they’re scared off by the creepy ghoulies, and the party has to continue human-free. One nice touch at the end is the monsters using a jack-o-lantern as a piñata. (I don’t think it’d work, but I’m dying to try.)

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
By Adam Rex

True, this is not a Halloween book per se. It’s more a book honoring the Universal monsters (and anyone who loves them as much as I do must own this book). It has the whole crew: Frankenstein’s Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Phantom of the Opera, witches, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, Count Dracula, the Mummy, the Yeti and Bigfoot, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, zombies, and Godzilla. Did we leave anybody out?

The book is a series of short stories (some long, some one page) about the various monsters. It’s clear that Mr. Rex adores these creatures as much as I do, because he plays with them without maligning their image.

My two favorite stories are the Phantom and Godzilla. The Phantom is actually a running gag where he can’t write a song because all these others are stuck in his head. Because of this, my daughter only knows the words to “It’s a Small World” as “Angry cursing fills the hall. / Now he’s crawling up the wall. / It’s a small, small world.” Plus she can hum the them to “The Girl from Ipanema.”

Godzilla is a two page gag where Godzilla poops on a poor man’s Honda. Nuff said.

Monster Museum
Written by Marilyn Singer
Pictures by Gris Grimly

I’m a huge fan of Gris Grimly. In fact nearly all of his books would make excellent Halloween stories. Monster Museum features all the major monsters, and this is what drew me in.
The plot is simple, a group of nine kids tours the monster museum. You see one after another nabbed by a critter as the pages unfold. By the end, there are only two kids left. Yet the final page shows all the monsters coming back to school with the kids (the happy ending).

If you’ve never seen Gris Grimly’s artwork, you’re missing out. I visit his booth every year at the San Diego Comic Con. We even have one of his prints at home. He always has a slightly twisted bent on the world that comes through with his figures.

You should pick this up if only for the inclusion of the cockatrice, chimera, and gorgon. Plus these awesome lines about the unicorn:

A lizard with wigs is a horror,
A stallion with wings is a beaut.
A snake with a horn is a nightmare,
A mare with a horn is just cute.

ABC Spookshow
By Ryan Heshka

This book is mostly art, but the illustrations are out of this world. Heshka does the creepiest ABC book I’ve yet seen (and I do own a Cthulhu ABC book, so I should know). Some of the subjects he chooses to represent the letters is just brilliant. Check these out:

E is for Ectoplasm
K is for Karloff
L is for Lugosi
(Even in ABC, Lugosi gets second billing)
Q is for Quagmire Monster

This little book is worth it for the art alone. Any one of the illustrations could be a stand alone poster.

Hope these help darken your mood. They’re all filled to the bring with enough creep to make you giggle and also stand your hair on end.

Tim Kane

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