Review Blog

Nov 03 2014

Monster chef by Nick Bland

cover image

Scholastic, 2014. ISBN 9781742838250
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Monsters, Cooking, Humour. With his most unmonsterish name, Marcel, this monster has a problem. He has the normal attributes of a monster: he is lumpy and grumpy, hairy and of medium size with crochety horns and googly eyes, but he fails to scare the children, which after all, is his purpose in life.  Perhaps his horns with balls on the end to prevent anyone being gored, or allowing kids to kiss or hug him gives readers a clue as to why he is so unsuccessful as a monster. In four line rhyming stanzas we follow him in the evening as he catches the bus with other monsters to go to work.
The humour is doubly reflected in the illustrations as Marcel sets about his night time employment. He lurks in wardrobes, climbs in windows, creeps down hallways, but the kids he is supposed to scare, treat him like a friend, giving him a hug and playing with his horns. A failure again, he trudges off home after an uneventful nonscaring night, and cooks his favourite things. Every reader will make appropriate noises at the combination of cockroach, bat and slug that he cooks up in his wonderful kitchen.
But when one night his lunch is found by the children, they are finally really and truly scared. He has found the answer.
This is an enormously delicious story about a monster whose job it is to scare children. He is morose at not fulfilling his aim, but finds another way to achieve his goal. His confidence grows so much that he opens a restaurant with gruesome menu choices, the worst of which gives a surprise ending which many children will relate to. Gouache, pencil and water colour are used with great effect, giving Marcel an almost sloppy look and his facial expressions are hilarious. I love the image of him sitting in the bus stop with his red lunch box, and the array of nasty crawly things in his kitchen will have the readers squeal with delight.
A wonderful readaloud, this clever rhyming story with its engrossing illustrations will be a hit with everyone who picks it up, and who could resist its enticing cover.
Fran Knight

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