Valensteins by Ethan Long

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781619634336
(Ages: 5-10) This can be summarised simply as monsters learning about love. Fans of Long's previous book Fright Club will love this as it uses the same cast of characters and illustrative style. There are dark gritty illustrations with a smattering of pink to suit the love theme. The bright pink highlights on the front cover will definitely grab attention and the use of familiar monsters (Frankenstein, etc.) and their witty banter will even please children who think they are too old for picture books. While the rest of the Fright Club is busy working on their scaring techniques, Fran K. Stein is working with pink paper, scissors and glue. "Are you making a mask?" asks Vladamir. He is, of course, making a Valentine's Day heart. An explanation of Valentine's Day and love follows: "That's when two people feel all mushy mushy about each other". The rest of the Fright Club members respond mainly with horror and disgust, especially when they discover that love involves kissing on the lips. Fran ignores them and goes off to find his Valentine. While pondering love he decides that it isn't really about fluttering your eyes or cutting out paper hearts, but "something you feel in your real heart, even if it does feel a little funny sometimes."
This has a very American look and feel to it, perhaps owing to America's pioneering of both Valentine's Day and Halloween, as well as some of the vocabulary and phrasing ("it looks like a paper butt", "tee-hee"). I wouldn't read this to young children who still have a one-dimensional understanding of love as it may be confusing for them. In addition, they wouldn't understand the repartee between the monsters. Older children with an understanding of the difference between familial love and romantic love and a keen sense of humour are the target audience here.
Nicole Nelson