Happy Birthday, Monster!
by Scott Beck
Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780810993631
Grades K-2
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My first inclination when I like a new book is to share it with others, town crier style (complete with bell and dressy tri-fold hat): Hey! Everyone! I enjoyed this book! I start looking for opportunities to read said book aloud, practice my voices, tone, inflection. But often times, after giving the matter some thought, I level with myself and realize that the book that I enjoy just won’t work well as a read aloud. Working in an elementary school library, I’ve done my fair share of storytime. I feel like I know storytime personally. And I’m here to tell you that Happy Birthday, Monster! is definitely NOT cut out for storytime. But that said, it’s still an outstanding book for the youngsters.

Ben, the friendliest looking three-horned devil in recent memory, is throwing a surprise party for his friend Doris. Monster friends are invited, snacks and entertainment is provided, and hilarity ensues. Each two page spread is its own little self-contained situation that occurs during the party. An all seeing narrator guides the story along, but the fun of this book lies in the word bubbles coming from the monsters themselves. You know – jokes, man. They just keep comin’. From the robot who falls in love with a lamp to the floating ghost who infuriates everyone by never messing up at jump rope, the story is filled with comic moments that will charm readers.

Word bubbles, you say? While they provide the spark in this book, they also prove to be the wrench in this title’s storytime chances. It’s often difficult and seldom fruitful and to attempt speaking them aloud. I have tried in the past, and I’m bound to try in the future, but those little ovals of whiteness are best read individually.

I am of the opinion that if given two picture books, one a great read aloud and the other a great read alone, a librarian will usually side with the former. Heck, I’m as guilty as y’all (P.S. Mo, keep on writing those gems!). What can I say? There is nothing like the feeling of getting a whole big slew of kids excited about a story at the same time. However the format of this title is best digested at a table of one – but still just as satisfying.