A page from Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott
I love monsters. Have since I was a kid. My 6-year-old loves monsters, too. Says she’s a vampire, says her favorite color is red because it’s the color of blood. Says she can see ghosts and witches. She once told me, when wandering into my room late one night, that she witnessed ghostwitch standing on my chest as I slept.
Creepy as hell to hear this the next morning.
I loved it.
As my father did me, I always encourage my child to invest time in reading about and watching monsters. Beyond the very entertaining nature of monster stories, I think it gives children a more realistic view of the world and arms them against the real horrors of life. If a child can learn how to manage their fears as a young person, chances are they’ll be better equipped to deal with the nastiness they will encounter in various forms throughout their lives.
So my kid and I, we watch kid horror movies like ParaNorman and Monster House. And we read monster books.
Here are 5 of our favorites. Read them right before bed, if you can. Who knows? Your kid may see witches standing on your chest while you sleep.
1. Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott
The nameless boy at the center of this Even Monsters Need Haircuts has a dark secret: On full moon nights, while his barber father is asleep, he is visited by Vlad the vampire bat, who leads him to his dad’s barbershop, where they convert the place into a hair cuttery for monsters. Of course, he uses a skeleton key to open the back door. He uses products like “Festering Lotion” and “Hair Die” to coif friends like Medusa, Frankenstein’s monster and various other creatures. When a human walks into the shop, well, that’s when things get a little hairy — so to speak. Of course, the most important aspect of this and really all monster books is how it sparks a child’s imagination. My daughter, for one, is convinced she makes midnight walks with a vampire to her own barber shop. I hope she makes lots in tip money.
2. Spike the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood, illustrations by Melissa Sweet
Spike is a spiky monster who tries his best to scare the other animals that reside around his pond. The duck, armadillo and mole think he’s actually very cute. Spike is confused. He’s a monster, right? Then comes a real monster. A gila monster. Soon, Spike finds out there are no monsters. He, himself, is in fact an axolotl. Bonus: Some of the text is in Spanish (with translations), so the kids are getting a neat little monster story, an introduction to odd animals and a Spanish lesson.
3. Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: A tongue-in-cheek take on the kids classic Goodnight Moon. The titular goon encounters all kinds of unusual scenarios on his way to bed. There are screechy bats and black hats, claws and jaws, and moans and groans. Of course, the goon has to say good night to everyone and everything, including the delicious looking “goodnight goo.”
4. Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg and Stephen Gammell
Monster Mama is a fantastic read, casting mom as an angry beast whose temper is legend around the neighborhood. What we learn is that mom’s bouts of anger are simply her reactions to very human situations. Better yet, scary mom is also the mom everyone loves. Though the narrative here is fantastic, what really sets Monster Mama apart from other stories is the art. This thing is gorgeously illustrated, with art similar to the splatter work of Ralph Steadman. This book is a work of art.
5. Leonardo The Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
From the author Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! comes this enjoyable little monster book. Done in the large type style Willems is known for, with lots of bold exclamations, Leonardo finds our insecure hero monster who can’t seem to scare … anyone. Then he meets Tony, a beast among beasts, a tooth guy with lots to offer in the monster department. Like other books on this list, Leonardo gets into self-esteem issues and ideas about individuality. Cause really, sometimes the scariest thing for anyone is being ourselves.