The Colour Monster Makes School Less Scary!
The Colour Monster Goes to School by Anna Llenas
This bright and cheerful story captures all the excitement and apprehension that starting school can bring. It’s the Colour Monster’s first day at school but he’s nervous. He wonders what school will be like. Will it be spooky and scary? Is it up in the sky, or in a jungle?
The Colour Monster packs his schoolbag, preparing for the worst. Bat repellent, alien-spotting glasses, a helmet and a laser are among the items he wants to take with him.
His friend Nuna kindly explains, however, that he’ll only need a coat and a notebook.
They arrive at school, with Nuna dragging a very reluctant Colour Monster after her. He hides behind a screen but warily emerges to meet his classmates. The Colour Monster then participates in activities that a typical school-day might involve, letting children know what to expect.
I love the expressions on the Colour Monster’s face. His shyness and confusion is communicated so clearly, and something to which children can easily relate. He’s lively, lovable and comical.
There’s lots of subtle humour conveyed through the other characters too. We see parents at the school gate who appear more upset on the first day than the pupils. Max and Valentín have their hands over their ears during the music lesson. Yun glances disapprovingly at the Colour Monster as he vandalises and eats the storybooks.
There's a tortoise on almost every page and it's great fun finding him to see what he is getting up to. It’s also amusing to spot the Colour Monster when he’s hiding and observe his misguided antics like eating books and making a mess in the bathroom. Seeing the Colour Monster get things wrong is reassuring for children too. It shows them it’s normal to make mistakes when getting used to new experiences and environments.
Creativity and individuality (and colouring outside the lines!) are celebrated. Art made by characters in the story features throughout; the opening and closing pages are arranged like a gallery displaying their work. Readers are even encouraged to draw their own picture of the Colour Monster in a blank space at the back.
All the drawings in the book are childlike and even the title character resembles a child’s impression of a monster. The illustrations are gorgeous; a dynamic blend of pencil, crayon, paint, coloured paper and newspaper, in the style of a collage. My Modern Met has an interesting account of how collage developed as a form of modern art.
The collage-style appeals to children as they learn this technique themselves at an early age. Eric Carle was one of the earliest (if not the first) children’s authors and illustrators to introduce collage into the pages of a picture book. His most famous title, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, makes an appearance on the bookshelf of the classroom in this story!
Author and illustrator, Anna Llenas, is a Spanish designer who, like Carle, worked in advertising before focusing on children’s books. This is a follow-up to the incredibly successful The Colour Monster, which first introduced the character to the world. It has sold over 1.5 million copies internationally and has been translated into more than 25 languages!
Llenas is from Barcelona and her style of illustration reminds me of another Barcelona native, Joan Miró. There are similarities between the bold primary colours, spontaneous energy and the childlike sense of expression evoked by both. You can see more of Llenas' designs and creations on her own website and Templar books have translated lots of her stories into English.
The Colour Monster Goes to School has been extremely popular here with our almost-a-preschooler and their about-to-start-big-school older sibling. It’s a lovely story in itself, besides being a brilliant and gentle introduction to what school entails. There are lessons in classroom, playground and even bathroom etiquette, but the tone never becomes preachy.
The theme, that “school is not so bad,” is emphasised again on the final pages, without ever feeling forced. I certainly would have enjoyed school much more had there been a colour monster in my class, but having this book is the next best thing!
Title: The Colour Monster Goes to School
Author: Anna Llenas
Publisher: Templar Books
Publication Date: 8th August 2019