Monster! Hungry! Phone! by Sean Taylor and Fred Benaglia
What's it about? A ravenous beast discovers his larder is bare and attempts to order a takeaway. His hunger and haste cause him to repeatedly dial the wrong number. Instead of Easy Cheesy Pizza Delivery, Monster reaches a variety of creatures with increasingly hilarious results.
What makes this story stand out? How funny and theatrical it is, and how dynamic the illustrations are. There are lots of sound effects and plenty of rhyming and repetition which enhance the reading experience. It's absolutely genius and manages to be simple enough to engage the very young while also appealing to older readers.
About those illustrations... They're incredibly striking and animated with enormous energy. I love the slightly retro quality of the artwork and the colour palette. The text is sparse so the images communicate drive quite a lot of the narrative. We see a wide range of emotions, from frustration to bewilderment, expressed by Monster and the animals he accidentally disturbs. This heightens the comedy even further. Monster's increasing despair is conveyed brilliantly (and is entirely relatable!).
There are lots more amusing details in the background, such as the family of tiny cockroaches living in Monster's house who appears in most scenes. I'm particularly fond of the monster's little shoes and how their size contrasts with the rest of him. And I love Monster's happy pizza dance which includes a pirouette on tiny tippy-toes. And how he arranges his hair while waiting for his call to be answered in one scene.
Why we love it... It's hilarious! We've been reading it daily ever since getting hold of it last week. My kids even requested I read this story five times in a row the day we got it, which is a record. And they wanted me to keep going but I had to stop as my throat was becoming irritated from doing the monster voice. Now we take turns in being the monster and reading different parts. The four-year-old can't read but has memorised lots of the lines. We've had lots of fun recreating the calls between Monster and the other characters too. The youngest also likes to take on the role of Monster and pretend to call me spontaneously at different times during the day which is making life more interesting!
Why you need it...
Everyone who appreciates a great story and enjoys a good laugh needs this book. In addition to being extremely entertaining, all the rhyming helps children develop their language skills. If you're a teacher, you need this for your classroom as I can imagine it being even more amazing in a group setting.
About the author:
Sean Taylor is the award-winning author of more than 50 books for young people as well as many poems and plays too. Sean is a champion of reading and writing and helps and encourages others to do both. I've just discovered that he refused to take prize money from Nestlé after winning the Smarties Children's Book Prize in 2007 because of their unethical business practices, particularly around the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in developing countries. Now I admire him even more! Find out more about this author in the entertaining 'about' section of his website in which he answers lots of intriguing questions.
About the illustrator: Born in 1974 in Antibes, Fred Benaglia graduated from the Estienne school in Paris. He has lived and worked in Paris for over 20 years and he started my professional life as the artistic director of a communication agency. Today, as artistic director of Bayard Presse, he oversees all the youth reading magazines. An author as well as an illustrator, Fred has a passion for telling stories with images, energetic lines and minimalist flat colours. See more of his work on his website.